Home E-Weekly September 19, 2017

D.C. Hospital Denies Report of Sewage-Soaked ORs

Published: September 18, 2017

STRONG DENIAL John Sullivan, the hospital's president, says the allegations are based on "inaccuracies and misused data."

MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where politicos and power brokers often seek care while in the nation's capital, is denying a report that claims its ORs are filled with sewage, a porta-potty-like stench and buzzing flies.

The stunning accusations were detailed in a recent article published in the USA Today, which interviewed hospital insiders and reviewed public records to paint a disturbing scene within the surgical department. Here are some of the troubling charges:

  • Sewage leaks in ORs that are located beneath bathrooms, including the OR where Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise had his last surgery after being shot during a congressional baseball team practice in June.
  • Surgical team members walking between "sewage soaked" ORs and instrument storage areas.
  • Buckets being used to catch water leaks during surgeries.
  • Portable fans blowing in ORs to rid the rooms of "porta potty" odors.
  • Flies constantly buzzing around ORs and, in some cases, landing in open wounds.
  • Four incidences of retained objects over a 12-month period.

Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumer Reports' Safe Patient Project, described the alarming scenes as a "hospital that is out of control" and says anyone would be "horrified and disgusted" that the problems would be allowed to persist for so long.

Some former members of the medical staff wonder if budget cuts and significant staffing layoffs — 400 nurses left their jobs last year — the hospital made to manage a $16 million deficit last fiscal year contributed to the lapses in infection control and safe patient care, according to the report.

John Sullivan, the hospital's president, lashed out at the paper in an open letter penned to defend his facility's reputation. Mr. Sullivan, who admitted a "minor plumbing leak" at the hospital, writes, "Despite our best effort to provide USA Today with accurate information about us, the story is riddled with inaccuracies and misused data."

Mr. Sullivan claims the hospital is "financially strong" and has invested in programs to improve quality and safety. He also pointed out that the Joint Commission and D.C. Department of Health rigorously inspect every inch of the hospital, which he says in fully accredited.

Daniel Cook

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