April 16, 2010 | | Comments 0
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Alleged fire safety worries, other lapses spell big trouble for a hospital

There was an attention-getting article in this week’s issue of our Hospital Safety Connection e-newsletter about a California hospital that got fined 100 grand by the state for low humidity levels in an OR, which raised concerns that electrosurgical instruments could spark and ignite a fire in the dry air.

I have to admit that in my years of covering life safety, I never considered bone dry humidity as one of the potential causes behind surgical fires. Most of the time, I learn about oxygen-enriched atmospheres contributing to OR blazes, or perhaps alcohol preps not fully drying.

The repercussions are shaping up to be severe for the California hospital in question, Southwest Healthcare System in Murrieta. Never mind the $100,000 fine — today the Los Angeles Times reported the hospital might lose its Medicare reimbursement because of other alleged concerns reported by investigators, including:

  • Staff failing replace an infant abduction alarm system after the components were removed
  • Clinicians failing to wear face masks and other personal protective equipment designed to control infections in a cardiac catherization unit

The hospital has disputed the OR humidity concerns with the state, and is also discussings its Medicare situation with CMS.

If you don’t already subscribe to Hospital Safety Connection, you should check it out. It’s free and comes to thousands of readers each week by e-mail.

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Filed Under: Environment of care

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Scott Wallask About the Author: Scott Wallask is senior managing editor for HCPro's Hospital Safety Center (www.hospitalsafetycenter.com) and the award-winning newsletters, Briefings on Hospital Safety and Healthcare Life Safety Compliance. He has written about healthcare for HCPro since 1998, with a focus on occupational and building safety, emergency management, fire protection, and infection control. Prior to joining HCPro, he worked as a reporter for several newspapers in eastern Massachusetts. He holds a BA in print journalism, magna cum laude, from Northeastern University in Boston. Contact Scott at swallask@hcpro.com.

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