State investigations at California's Paradise Valley Hospital have revealed disturbing evidence that contaminated medications may have put more than 7,300 patients at risk of infection. Meanwhile, the hospital has responded to the allegations and maintained their position that patient safety is a top priority for them, and claim that the report ignored or hardly mentioned important clarifications and contextual facts.
Upon inspection of the laboratory where intravenous medications are compounded, inspectors found stains, dust, and other foreign material in what is supposed to be a completely sterile area, according to a state report. The investigation resulted in the hospital's head of infection control being fired when it was found that documents to monitor the lab had been falsified.
The hospital has been slapped with a $17,500 fine and directed to put a corrective plan in action by the California Department of Public Health. A statement issued by hospital, however, clarified that the investigation did not identify any actual harm to patients. The penalty is being appealed by the hospital because no contamination of medications could be found on tests that were conducted at an outside laboratory.
According to the hospital itself, "an outside lab performs a quarterly microbial analysis and monthly environmental purity and sterility test in the compounding area of the pharmacy. It found no evidence of contamination."
Prime Healthcare, the Ontario, California-based owner of Paradise Valley Hospital, has refrained from informing affected patients of the possible contamination because no conclusive evidence of patient jeopardy was found on further analysis. The state records, however, state that more than 7,300 patients who received intravenous medications prepared in the contaminated laboratory between January 1 and August 18 of 2015 could have been exposed to infection.
Paradise Valley Hospital has reassured patients that quarterly analysis for microbes and monthly purity and sterility tests are conducted in the area of the pharmacy used for preparing medications. Both before and after the investigation, no evidence of contamination was found and tests showed no growth of microbes. The hospital clarifies that while a potential for exposure was detected, no actual evidence of contamination was found and patients were not in peril. The maximum penalty is $75,000 if evidence of harm to patients is identified, but the hospital hopes to have even the $17,500 fine overturned.
The statement issued by the hospital has critiqued the original reporter for ignoring some important contextual details that are relevant to the story; namely that "most hospitals receive some type of findings and fines through surveys", and that "Paradise Valley Hospital's findings were not out of the norm." They also pointed out that "Paradise Valley Hospital is in the top 5% in the nation for patient safety and has been a Patient Safety Excellence recipient for the last three years."
This story and the subsequent rebuttal from the hospital itself has highlighted the importance of understanding the context of a report and having a healthy skepticism about facts reported before drawing any hard and fast conclusions in the world of healthcare.