Judge slams California system as safety-net hospitals 'fall into disrepair'

Los Angeles-based Prospect Medical Holdings has come under fire for the alleged mismanagement of two of its safety-net hospitals in Providence, R.I.

Prospect, a for-profit health system, owns and operates 278-bed Roger Williams Medical Center and 220-bed Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, which allegedly are dealing with several hazards and patient safety issues, according to court documents obtained by Becker's.

Alleged hazards at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital include mold; bedbug infestations; cockroaches unaddressed by a pest control service; mice in various areas; a lack of functioning buttons to monitor radiation exposure; and leaking ceilings and pipes causing slip and fall hazards, according to court documents. 

Examples of incidents at Roger Williams included  black substances observed on walls; improper sterilization; brown water flowing from an eye wash device; empty oxygen cylinders mixed in with full oxygen cylinders; failure to wear personal protective equipment for hazardous medications like chemotherapy; and failure to record vital signs following blood transfusions.

Prospect has "created a situation of great urgency at the hospitals by refusing to provide proper funding quarter after quarter," Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Brian Stern said in a June 12 ruling. "Not only are the hospitals scrambling to obtain supplies day to day, but other areas of the hospitals are falling into disrepair." 

Both employees of the hospitals and outside agencies investigating the facilities have attested to the urgent situation caused by Prospect, according to court documents. 

"All the deficiencies described in the reports contained in Judge Stears decision have been corrected promptly, including a temporary fix for the roof, which will require more time for a permanent solution," a spokesperson for Prospect told Becker's. "We remain in compliance with the department of health." 

In a June 12 decision, the court gave Prospect 10 days to pay more than $17.3 million of unpaid bills to vendors of the two hospitals to facilitate the continuation of safe and reliable patient care.

The decision spells more bad news for Prospect, which plans to sell the two safety-net hospitals to the Centurion Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit. 

Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health is also suing Prospect to get out of a deal to acquire three of its Connecticut hospitals. Yale New Haven alleges Prospect engaged in irresponsible financial practices and breached its contract by not paying rent and taxes on time, letting the three hospitals deteriorate. Prospect countersued earlier this month, demanding that Yale honor its contractual obligations to acquire the hospitals.

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