The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently cited Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital with two violations over quality of care concerns that involved the violation of patient rights to safe care.
Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital is a 255-bed hospital located at 18951 N Memorial Drive, Humble, TX 77338, near the Deerbrook Mall area.
The Centers are part of the federal government and send surveyors to conduct on-site inspections and interviews at accredited hospitals. A major purpose of these inspections is to identify quality of care issues that need corrected to make sure that patients are receiving safe and appropriate health care.
Mishandling patient complaint of sexual abuse
On May 15, 2018, Medicare and Medicaid issued two violations to the hospital over the way it handled investigation of a patient allegation of abuse, neglect and sexual abuse. This brings the hospital’s violation tally to four violations in a four-year period.
Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital has a policy and procedure in place that only allows an employee performing peri-care or changing a diaper for a patient of the opposite sex to do these tasks when another employee of the same sex of the patient is present.
The surveyor learned of a female patient’s complaint of sexual abuse by a male patient care assistant (PCA or orderly). The patient had needed cleaned up and, according to the PCA, no one was available to help him, so he cleaned the patient alone. The patient alleged that the male PCA “threw her down and kissed her, then spread her legs and said he was going to lick her.”
According to a nurse in the hospital’s risk management department, this was not the first time that the male PCA had not followed the hospital’s procedure on caring for patients of the opposite sex. In February 2018, he had been warned about the policy.
What should have happened
The hospital has a policy entitled "Investigation of Reported Abuse During an Encounter Policy," which is dated September 19, 2016. It provided that:
A person having reasonable cause to believe that any person may be/has been abused, neglected, or exploited during an encounter at facility shall report said abuse, neglect or exploitation without delay to the Hospital/Entity Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or designee (Operations Administration/ Immediate Supervisor) and the Risk Manager so an appropriate investigation can be conducted, to include necessary reports filed with the appropriate regulatory agencies.
How the hospital staff missed the mark
The surveyor uncovered that, after the patient complaint, the PCA’s supervisor allowed him to: (1) complete his work shift on the same unit; and (2) after the patient complaint, a nurse who was aware of the patient complaint asked the PCA to come back into the room of the same patient, to assist with a task.
In addition, the patient was not moved to another unit or location, and the risk management nurse did not notify the police about the patient complaint of sexual abuse.
As a former hospital administrator, I know that even the best written hospital policies and procedures are of little value unless they’re followed by the nursing staff and other employees. This requires that hospital leaders, risk management, and supervisors make sure that the staff is trained on the hospital’s expectations and conduct, the staff’s competence is tested, and staff members are held accountable when there are violations.
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Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2018, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. Also, in 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.