United Medical Center’s obstetrics unit shut down by D.C. health department following dangerous errors

United Medical Center's obstetrics license was restricted following a series of potentially dangerous mistakes. (Pamela Seaton/Creative Commons)

The District of Columbia Department of Health last week restricted United Medical Center’s obstetrics license, and a letter obtained by The Washington Post details the lapses in care that led to the DOH’s decision.

In one case, physicians at the hospital delivered a baby for a woman identified as Patient A naturally, though she was infected by HIV, according to the letter. An infant delivered by Cesarean section is less likely to contract the virus. The clinical team also failed to treat the newborn with antiretroviral medication.

In another case, doctors at the hospital failed to properly monitor and treat a morbidly obese pregnant patient who came in with trouble breathing, despite a history of preeclampsia, a potentially fatal blood pressure condition. In the final case, obstetrics staff failed to physically screen a newborn after birth, according to the article.

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Officials at the Department of Health have declined to publicly release the letter, the Post reported. In an interview last week, DOH Director LaQuandra Nesbitt declined to provide further details on the incidents.

“We found things that led us to decisions to restrict the hospital’s license to not provide scheduled deliveries and the subsequent newborn nursery services that would occur,” she told the Post.

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In a statement released last week, United Medical Center also declined to reveal specific details for privacy reasons, but said that it will address the DOH’s concerns during the 90-day restriction. It acknowledged the “three separate cases involving deficiencies in screening, clinical assessment and delivery protocols” in the statement.

UMC said that it will coordinate with other District of Columbia providers to ensure patients in the city have access to obstetric care.

“UMC had already initiated the process of transitioning from a Level III neonatal intensive care center and we will be working to ensure that all physicians and nursing staff have appropriate training in policy and procedures,” it said. “Until that process is complete, UMC will coordinate alternative services through Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and local hospital partners to care for our current obstetric patients.”

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