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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Hospital Cited After Radiation Inspection : Health: Errors in handling radioactive materials posed no threat to workers or patients, health officials say.

October 08, 1994|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LANCASTER — High Desert Hospital has been cited by county inspectors for seven violations in the handling of radioactive materials, but health officials said none of the errors endangered patients or employees.

"They are violations that are going to have to be corrected," Kathleen Kaufman, director of Los Angeles County Radiation Management, said Friday. "But we didn't find anything that indicated there was a health or safety threat."

"All of these are easily correctable," she added, "and most have been corrected already."

Kaufman said a letter outlining the violations was mailed to the county-operated hospital Thursday. Hospital officials said Friday they had not received the letter but were aware of its contents.

"I believe that by the time we get the letter, everything will already have been corrected," said Jerry M. Harris, associate administrator at the 170-bed facility.

A county health investigator visited the hospital last week to look into reports that hospital staff members did not follow proper safety procedures when they administered radioactive iodine to patients with thyroid disorders.

The inspector determined that the staff had been inadequately trained in the handling and disposal of these materials, according to Kaufman. One of the citations was issued because staff members did not follow proper procedures when they tested radiation levels in the patients' rooms.

In addition, the inspector found a broken lock on a cabinet used to store radioactive vials and also discovered that a hospital patient had mixed waste materials carrying a small amount of radiation with non-radioactive medical waste.

Also in the report is an incident in which a patient who had trouble swallowing capsules received radioactive iodine in a liquid form. The hospital was cited because it is licensed to administer the medicine only in the less hazardous capsule form.

The hospital will have 15 days to respond with a plan to correct these problems, Kaufman said, but no fines were levied and the hospital's license to use radioactive materials is unlikely to be revoked.

"We're going to use this as a learning experience," Harris said. "We're always very concerned about the safety of patients and employees. Fortunately, this incident resulted in no harm to anyone. We're going to make certain it never happens again."

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