Virginia Mason under investigation after accreditation trouble

The Joint Commission's decision to deny Seattle-based Virginia Mason Medical Center full accreditation triggered an investigation by state and federal regulators, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

The Joint Commission made an unannounced visit to Virginia Mason Medical Center May 20. Commission members who surveyed the hospital concluded that a condition existed "that posed a threat to patients or other individuals served," and the Joint Commission issued a preliminary denial of accreditation.

Following another visit to the hospital, the Joint Commission issued a contingent accreditation to Virginia Mason June 1. According to the accrediting agency's website, this status occurs when a healthcare organization "has successfully abated an immediate threat to life situation through direct observation or other method," among other possibilities.

Immediately following the Joint Commission's decision to deny the hospital full accreditation, the Washington state Department of Health began an investigation of the hospital June 3 on behalf of the state and CMS, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

The agencies issued a "statement of deficiencies" to the hospital June 15 that identified problems with oversight of its kidney-dialysis unit. Specifically, the agencies found that the dialysis unit was not managed by a registered nurse, as required, but instead a respiratory therapist managed daily operations, according to The Seattle Times.

Subsequently, Virginia Mason announced June 17 that hospital staff failed to properly screen dialysis patients for hepatitis B and notified 650 patients, who received services as far back as 2011, that they may have been exposed to the virus.

Although the hospital's correction plan for the dialysis unit has been reviewed and approved by the department of health, Virginia Mason received a letter from the DOH June 17, informing the hospital that the investigation is ongoing, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

The Joint Commission will conduct another unannounced follow-up survey at Virginia Mason within the next three months to make sure the hospital has corrected the deficiencies identified in the original survey.

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