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Baylor St. Luke’s Faces List of Safety Failures in CMS Report

Last week, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center solidified its vow to correct a long list of safety lapses by submitting a corrective action plan to the federal government.

The move comes in response to a scathing report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and a number of investigative reviews by news organizations, identifying systemic shortcomings with the hospital’s quality of care.

St. Luke’s Reported History of Safety Lapses

Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, a once prestigious Houston hospital jointly owned by Baylor College of Medicine and CHI St. Luke’s Health, has faced months of intensive scrutiny over serious safety lapses, dangerous medical mistakes, and unsanitary conditions. Here’s a brief history as accounted for in recent the new reports:

  • The blowback began last year with an investigative review from the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica which documented high rates of complications and deaths following heart transplants performed at St. Luke’s. Additional news investigations unearthed concerns regarding the hospital’s surgical outcomes, management, and nursing staff.
  • In August 2018, CMS terminated St. Luke’s funding for heart transplants, and launched an official investigation into the hospital to bring in new leadership for its cardiac surgery program.
  • In November and December, a pattern of mishaps involving blood labeling culminated in the death of an ER patient who had been given the wrong blood type during a transfusion. The deadly mistake prompted a full federal review of the hospital, and resulted in St. Luke’s Board of Directors replacing its CEO and top executives.
  • In January 2019, a CMS report found St. Luke’s failed to comply with federal requirements regarding patient rights, performance improvement / quality assurance, and nursing care. An additional follow up revealed a number of other patient safety, maintenance, and sanitary issues at the hospital.

Last month, investigators with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Texas Department of State Health Services released a 200+ page report chronicling the many deficiencies for which St Luke’s was cited. The report, regulators note, highlights the hospital’s systemic, pervasive failures to implement adequate processes to ensure staff followed protocol, and that the hospital could correct serious mistakes in a timely manner.

The report highlights the serious repercussions of repeated safety lapses and a culture of non-compliance – including preventable infections, surgical errors, and nursing and physician mistakes. Many compliance failures identified by regulators were deemed to place patients in “Immediate Jeopardy” of serious injuries or death.

A few of the issues identified in the report include:

  • Sanitary deficiencies deemed immediate risks to patient health and safety, including issues with food services, kitchen sewage, kitchen sanitation, and infection control;
  • Failures to disinfect transvaginal ultrasound inducers after use / between patients, maintain sterile pharmaceutical compounding areas, prevent cross contamination in patient rooms, and ensure staff adhere to proper infection control practices;
  • Violations involving treatment risk and benefit explanations to patients and their rights to make informed decisions about their care;
  • Administrative failures regarding quality assurance and mechanisms to correct past mistakes.

From kitchens and administrative back rooms to the operating theatre, outpatient program, and nearly all aspects of St. Luke’s care, regulators found glaring failures that have shaken the hospital’s leadership and instilled fear and distrust among patients and their families.

Though the corrective action plan and a public statement issued by the hospital’s new President suggest St. Luke’s is working to improve policies and regain its stripped federal certification, only time will tell whether those improvements will come to fruition, positively impact quality of care and, most importantly, improve patient safety.

Injured at Baylor St. Luke’s or Another Hospital? BCH Can Help.

Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC is a Houston-based trial law firm with a national reputation for our work in complex personal injury and wrongful death cases, including those involving pharmaceuticals and medical devices, hospital negligence, and medical malpractice.

Having represented many patients and families harmed by the regulatory violations, negligence, and administrative failures of health care providers, we know it’s vital for hospitals to take immediate and decisive corrective action following mistakes. Unfortunately for patients at St. Luke’s, as reports indicate, many failures persisted or worsened over periods of time, to the detriment of patient safety.

Victims who suffer preventable infections, complications, or other issues resulting in injuries, the death of a loved one, and related losses have every right to hold failing hospitals accountable. Not only can legal action provide needed justice and compensation, it can also compel providers into taking the necessary steps they should have always taken to protect patients in the future.

To learn more about your potential medical malpractice case and how our award-winning Texas attorneys at BCH can help if a medical professional violated duty of care and caused your injury, contact us for a free case evaluation.

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