Record $1 Million Fine|Against Dallas Hospital

     DALLAS (CN) – Texas regulators slapped Dallas County’s public hospital with a record $1 million fine for violations of patient safety and other rules.
     The fine is 20 times larger than the state’s previous largest fine for such violations.
     The Department of State Health Services announced the fine in a settlement agreement with Parkland Memorial Hospital. It said the fine resulted from an investigation of complaints about the hospital conducted between January 2011 and May this year.
     According to the agreement, the state found a laundry list of “egregious deficiencies” in the hospital, including failures to adequately staff nurses, particularly in the emergency and psychiatric emergency departments, and failure to keep proper medical records.
     It found “failure to ensure appropriate infection control methods were utilized, such as the wearing of face masks, hand washing, reporting of infectious diseases to the department and follow-up, and inadequate cleaning of the operating rooms.”
     Regulators also noted deficient practices in nine key areas, including nursing services, restraint and seclusion, respiratory care and the pharmacy.
     The DSHS summarized nine patient complaints against the hospital. In a case in January 2011, an improper follow-up to surgery for a female patient resulted in the amputation of her leg.
     In another case, a female psychiatric emergency patient sneaked a lighter into the hospital and set her clothing on fire.
     “A male nurse was found to have unnecessarily assessed a male patient’s genitalia on two occasions during the evening hours,” the agreement states. “The patient had been admitted for a badly infected finger.”
     In another case, a resident dental student was supposed to pull teeth that were damaged in an automobile collision, but pulled the teeth on the wrong side of the patient’s mouth, the DSHS said.
     In another case, despite security measures introduced after a patient brought in a loaded gun, a psychiatric emergency services patient was found to have a loaded gun in her possession, as well.
     Debbie Branson, chairwoman of the hospital board, said in a statement: “We appreciate the DSHS’s willingness to work with Parkland on a settlement that allows us to focus on fixing the compliance issues that have troubled our health care system. We will cooperate fully with this agreement as we continue to work toward completion of our corrective action plan.”
     The previous top fine was levied against Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston in 2007 – it paid $50,000, the Dallas Morning News reported.

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