California health inspectors found poor oversight and mistakes at UC-Irvine's dialysis center that could pose a danger to patients' safety and potentially jeopardize Medicare funding for the facility, according to a report, the Los Angeles Times reports.
On Monday, UC-Irvine officials said they already have taken steps to address the issues raised during the inspection (Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, 2/28).
In November 2010, the California Department of Public Health conducted a surprise inspection of the facility as part of the CMS recertification process (Perkes, Orange County Register, 2/28).
Federal regulations require the state to inspect dialysis centers every three years, but the UC-Irvine facility had not been inspected since 2003 because of a lack of funding, according to DPH spokesperson Ralph Montano (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/28).
According to the 70-page report, health inspectors found several problems related to infection control and building maintenance, including:
- Rusted dialysis equipment;
- Unsanitary conditions at the center;
- Nurses and staff failing to monitor patients' dialysis fluid (Los Angeles Times, 2/28);
- Medical staff touching patients and equipment without washing their hands or changing gloves; and
- The building not being equipped with a back-up generator (Orange County Register, 2/28).
According to a DPH letter, the center's administrator on Feb. 10 was given 90 days to submit a plan of correction or the center would lose its Medicare funding.
In a plan of correction sent to regulators on Friday, Alpesh Amin, head of the UC-Irvine Department of Medicine, said, "We appreciate the seriousness of the issues raised," adding that the regulators' findings have "helped us become better" (Los Angeles Times, 2/28).
John Murray, spokesperson for UC-Irvine, said all of the inspectors' findings "have been addressed and corrected" (Hennessy-Fiske, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 2/28).
Murray said that after the November 2010 inspection, the facility's staff was overhauled and retrained, and a new medical director and nurse manager were appointed.
In addition, equipment has been repaired or replaced, and a comprehensive equipment upgrade is expected to be complete next year, according to the center's plan of correction.
Meanwhile, in a letter to faculty and staff on Monday, UC-Irvine CEO Terry Belmont and Ralph Clayman, dean of the UC-Irvine Medical School, defended the dialysis center, writing that its mortality and patient infection rates are the lowest in Orange County and below state and national averages.
Montano said state regulators are reviewing the facility's plan of correction. Regulators plan to return to UC-Irvine's dialysis center to conduct a follow-up inspection within 30 to 45 days (Los Angeles Times, 2/28).