In a petition filed this week, the advocacy group Consumers Union accuses the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) of drastically falling behind on hospital inspections required by state law. Though facilities are supposed to face scrutiny from public health officials every three years, Consumers Union claims their analysis shows as many as 131 acute care hospitals went five years or more without an inspector setting foot in their space.
Consumers Union further maintains that a majority of the hospitals in that grouping had infection rates above the state norm.
“Among these uninspected hospitals, 80 had infection rates that were significantly higher than other hospitals in the state,” the complaint asserts.
“It’s time to start looking at these hospitals that have significantly higher infection rates and do something that makes them accountable,” Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project, tells the Los Angeles Times.
The Consumers Union also identifies a potential flaw in the system, noting that the state’s public health department isn’t providing collected infection data with inspectors in a timely fashion. This prevents those public officials on the ground from taking informed action when interacting with healthcare facilities, the advocacy organization claims.
“CDPH is putting patients’ lives at risk by blocking inspectors from finding out which hospitals report high infection rates,” McGiffert says. “We need effective state oversight to ensure that hospitals with the worst infection track records are held accountable for taking action to protect patients.”
The complaint specifically calls out Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, noting that it went over five years without an inspection, despite being identified as one of the hospitals with significantly high infection rates by the public health department’s Healthcare Associated Infections program. The Consumers Union points out that when an inspection finally did take place, in March 2015, it seemed to be in direct response to multiple news reports about a superbug outbreak at the facility.
The complaint speculates that inspectors may have been more proactive about visiting Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center if the previously collected infection rate data were shared more freely and strategically.
“[Perhaps] they would have conducted thorough, timely, routine inspections sooner, thus, potentially, saving lives,” the complaint states.
The California Department of Public Health announced intentions to respond to the complaint within 30 days.
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