Understaffed hospital put ill babies at risk

Olive View-UCLA Medical Center endangered critically ill babies by operating its neonatal intensive care unit without enough staff, according to a report by state investigators. The unit continued to treat critically ill infants, even though the state had required the hospital to transfer such patients, reports the Los Angeles Times.

All babies on ventilators for more than four hours and those in need of surgery should have been moved to better-equipped and staffed hospitals, Norman Williams, a spokesman for the California Department of Health Services, told the Times. Investigators from the California Department of Public Health confirmed previous media reports that the unit had been downgraded from "community" to "intermediate" in November 2008. Yet the Olive View neonatal unit maintained operations as though it still had the higher "community" standing, treating babies that should have been transferred.

Investigators also found that only one board-certified neonatologist was working in the unit--who would have been solely responsible for providing the required 24-hour coverage, notes the Times.

"The cumulative effect of these systemic problems resulted in the hospital's inability to ensure the provision of quality healthcare in a safe environment," wrote investigators.

For more:
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- read the Mercury News article

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