Regulators ban Stanford affiliate from treating PICU patients amid investigation

Health regulators in California have ordered John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek to stop treating children in its pediatric intensive care unit after documenting dozens of deficiencies, the San Francisco Chronicle reported May 12.  

The Department of Health Care Services flagged 47 deficiencies in the Stanford affiliate's PICU that "call into question the qualifications and competency of the unit's doctors and nurses, as well as the care they were providing to children," according to the report. The violations prompted DHCS to take an unprecedented move and prohibit the hospital from admitting patients covered by California Children's Services.

The news outlet has published several stories regarding quality issues —  including four potentially preventable patient deaths — within the hospital's PICU, which prompted the state's review. John Muir executives created and implemented a corrective action plan in April, after a CMS visit found the hospital failed to define certain care conditions and procedures that would require a patient to be transferred for more intensive care. The corrective plan was accepted by the agency, which said it would make an unannounced visit to ensure implementation this summer. 

The investigation and recommendations from DHCS are separate from CMS. Among the violations cited in DHCS' review were that the hospital's PICU did not adequately outline how to treat certain major illnesses, did not appear to be tracking whether basic procedures such as intubations were being done competently, and that some clinicians lacked documentation required to care for children in the California Children's Services program. 

State regulators made 62 recommendations. If they are not fixed, John Muir risks permanent loss of its CCS certification, officials told the Chronicle. A spokesperson for the hospital told the news outlet that all recommendations have been addressed and a full plan of correction would be submitted by the state's May 16 deadline. In the meantime, state officials have instructed other hospitals in the area not to transfer CCS patients to the hospital's PICU.

"Our pediatric intensive care unit, which is operated in partnership with Stanford Medicine Children's Health, is staffed by highly qualified and skilled physicians, nurses and staff who are dedicated to caring for sick children and supporting their families," John Muir said in a statement emailed to Becker's, adding that state regulator's findings were "administrative" and did not pertain to quality of care. "We are confident that our Corrective Action Plan, which will be submitted by May 16, will be approved, and we will continue to operate our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit as a CCS certified program."


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