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April 25, 2000

State Health Department Shuts Down Tacoma Hospital

Serious violations may put patients at risk

Update: Agreement Reached to keep Tacoma Hospital Open

Olympia, WA (SafetyAlerts) - The Washington state Department of Health has suspended the license of Puget Sound Hospital in Tacoma and has ordered the facility to shut down by the end of the week.

The Department has issued a "Summary Suspension" against the hospital for serious violations that could directly affect the health of the patients. That means the hospital must stop admitting patients immediately and must find other care for its remaining patients by 5 p.m. Friday.

A Department of Health investigator sent to the hospital last week found serious violations involving standards of sterility, infection control and sanitation. The investigator also documented a case of drug theft that the department believes was the result of a serious system failure at the hospital that put several patients in jeopardy.

According to Gary Bennett, the Department of Health director of Facilities and Services Licensing, "Our investigator found dead bugs in storage bins holding hospital supplies that are supposed to be maintained in a sanitary fashion. We also found mouse dropping in the same room. At the very least, the public expects a hospital to be clean and supplies to be sanitary. The conditions at this hospital are far below standard, and we believe patients are at risk."

The violation involving stolen drugs is also very serious. The Department of Health investigator confirmed that a patient in the hospital’s chemical dependency/mental health unit entered an unlocked office and had access to a cart containing anesthetics used in surgeries. The patient allegedly stole several dangerous prescription drugs and then brought them back to the unit where he shared the stolen medication with other patients.

This is the first time in the ten-year history of the Department of Health that the license of a hospital has been summarily suspended. According to Bennett, " This is a very serious matter and we are taking the strongest action we can to deal with it."

 
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