Letter exposes mistakes that led to United Medical Center obstetrics ward shutdown

A letter from the District Health Department to Washington, D.C.-based United Medical Center, obtained by the Washington Post, disclosed the mistakes that caused district regulators to impose a 90-day obstetrics ward shutdown at UMC.

The letter revealed, in one case, that UMC staff did not take proper steps to prevent the transmission of HIV from an infected mother to her baby, such as providing antiretroviral medication after birth or delivering via Caesarian section.

The letter also highlighted a case where the hospital improperly monitored and treated a 35-week pregnant obese woman with a history of serious blood pressure problems. The letter also stated the hospital failed to physically screen a newborn at the right time after birth. The letter does not disclose names or outcomes of these patients.  

In a statement issued Aug. 9, United Medical Center attributed the shutdown to "three separate cases involving deficiencies in screening, clinical assessment and delivery protocols." A hospital spokeswoman, Jennifer Devlin, said HIPAA regulations prohibited the hospital from releasing details.

Rosemary Gibson, a patient advocate and adviser at the Hastings Center research group, told the Washington Post that hospitals often cite patient privacy as a reason to withhold information the public deserves to know.

Read the full letter here.

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