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OHSU threatened with Medicare termination following hospital fire

Several weeks after a fire at the Doernbecher Children's Hospital severely burned a 12-year old girl, federal health officials sent the Oregon Health & Science University a warning letter threatening Medicare termination. OHSU oversees the Doernbecher Children's Hospital located in Portland. The letter requires certain safety procedures and training to take place, or OHSU could be terminated from the federal Medicare program.

Following the fire, state investigators found several fire violations at Doernbecher. While it has yet to be seen whether the incident at the hospital may lead to civil claims of hospital negligence, the state fire inspector found that OHSU had created a situation of "immediate jeopardy" for its patients and hospital staff members. The situation is being taken seriously, as the state even required six days of 24-hour fire safety patrols.

A second inspection by fire officials found that training and safety upgrades at the facility had not taken place. In addition, the inspector found that fire drills at OHSU were infrequent, and "staff could work at the hospital 20 years" without attending a fire drill. The inspection also found violations concerning the hospital's sprinkler systems had not been corrected. Furthermore, fire alarms were not installed or properly working in many places. Numerous other violations were listed in the inspection.

According to federal and state officials, it is rare for a hospital to be threatened with termination from the Medicare program. It is also rare for such threats to become public knowledge. If the fixes are not in place by June 6, OHSU could be terminated from the federal Medicare program. The unfortunate circumstances surrounding the fire in this case show that potential hospital negligence claims are not limited in scope to medical malpractice. Something as simple as a wet floor or a faulty fire alarm system can cause serious and irreparable injuries to patients.

Source: The Oregonian, "Oregon Health & Science University hit with federal warning letter, says fire fixes underway," Nick Budnick, March 22, 2013

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