Massachusetts hospital cited for lapses in high-risk pregnancy care

CMS cited Springfield, Mass.-based Mercy Medical Center after the hospital mishandled several high-risk obstetrics patients, including a failure to transfer a patient at risk for pregnancy complications to a facility for complex maternity patients, The Boston Globe reports.

Six things to know:

1. The patient admitted to Mercy Medical Center showed clear signs of pregnancy complications. She had high blood pressure, was overweight, smoked and had preeclampsia. She was admitted to the hospital the morning of Feb. 12 to induce labor, and was having difficulty breathing and experiencing pressure in her chest by 11 a.m.

2. When the patient's condition quickly deteriorated, Mercy Medical Center did not transfer her to a hospital specializing in treating complex maternity patients. Mercy, which is owned by Hartford, Conn.-based Trinity Health of New England, does not have state designation to treat high-risk pregnancies. The woman suffered a fatal heart attack just hours after she had a cesarean section.

3. An April investigation found another mishandled case involving a high-risk obstetrics patient at the hospital. Federal regulators deemed the hospital in "immediate jeopardy" of harming patients, putting its Medicare contract at risk.

4. The immediate jeopardy designation was lifted in May after Mercy improved care procedures. A group of hospitals, public health officials and medical professionals plan to make statewide recommendations on maternity care levels in the next few months, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association said.

5. Mercy "took decisive and effective action" after the problems, bringing in national perinatal experts from its corporate office to recommend improvements, hospital executives told the Globe.

Actions included identifying obstetrics patients in physician practices who should be referred to high-risk practices and hospitals and adopting a warning system for Mercy's maternity patients at risk for life-threatening complications.

6. Mercy declined to say if it had transferred high-risk patients to other practices since the inspection. "Safety and quality of care are our top priorities at Mercy Medical Center," a news release stated. "It is important to note that women in labor can develop complications abruptly and without sufficient warning to initiate a safe interfacility transfer."

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