Hospital shuts down services after patient safety violations

An intensive care unit completely out of syringes and needles. Zero boxes of surgical gloves and no medicated soap. Faulty X-ray equipment. These were some of the listed violations that put patients at St. Catherine Medical Center in immediate jeopardy, according to a federal investigation that caused the Ashland, Penn., hospital to shut down its emergency room and end its outpatient services, WNEP 16 reported. Even more, the inspection found that the hospital failed to conduct timely routine maintenance on electrocardiograms (EKGs), defibrillators and ventilators.

The state health department completed its surprise investigation on March 23 and found serious breaches to patient safety. Because of the hospital's noncompliance with Medicare and Medicaid regulations, the health department banned new admissions, as well as emergency and laboratory services, the Republican Herald reported. Only the long-term care residents remain in the hospital.

CEO Merlyn Knapp said in a statement: "We recently received a copy of the U.S. Department of Health report, with which we do not agree. Currently, all options for the future of the hospital are being reviewed, including seeking a buyer. We especially would like to thank our employees and physicians for providing our patients with excellent clinical care and the community for their continued support over the years," WNEP reported.

St. Catherine Medical Center has been part of the community for 130 years, according to another WNEP article. The 67-bed acute and 40-bed long-term care facility is licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and accredited by The Joint Commission, according to the hospital's website.

"It is our firm belief that every patient, their family members and others concerned with their care process deserve respect, empathy and concern," the hospital states on the website.

The patient safety breaches may stem for the weak financial state the hospital is in, according to WNEP. Seventy-six vendors that work with the hospital say they are owed a total of $2.3 million. The hospital also shortchanged workers, cutting off short-term and long-term disability, 401(K) payments and union dues from August to December 2011. Even more, the investigation claimed the hospital didn't pay federal income taxes and Social Security during a pay period last month.

For more information:
- see the WNEP 16 report on the violations and the article on banned admissions
- read the Republican Herald article
- visit the St. Catherine website

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