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U.S. clears hospital in scalpel incident

July 28, 2007|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

Federal officials on Friday cleared Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital of a citation for placing patients in "immediate jeopardy" of harm, which was issued after a psychiatric patient cut herself with a scalpel in an emergency room bathroom.

The action came as 13 federal inspectors, after a five-day visit, concluded their evaluation of the troubled medical center.

A hospital nurse was accused of failing to adequately monitor the psychiatric patient in the incident this week. The nurse was fired and a supervising nurse was placed on leave.

County health officials submitted a detailed corrective action plan to auditors after the incident.

"The survey was thorough and the department will await the results," county health chief Dr. Bruce Chernof said in a statement. "Our focus remains on healthcare that meets national standards."

Regulators from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will issue findings on or before Aug. 15. If the hospital flunks the inspection, it will lose $200 million in federal money. County supervisors have said that would force them to close the hospital. State regulators have taken steps to revoke King-Harbor's license, which would also force the hospital to close.

County health officials have made contingency plans if the hospital closes, including rerouting patients and finding a private entity to run King-Harbor.

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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