In the same week, state lawmakers blasted executives at Good Samaritan Hospital and its parent company HCA Healthcare for “unsafe” security practices and staffing levels, the investigative unit NBC Bay Area has learned from multiple sources inside the hospital that public health inspectors are actively investigating a multitude of complaints recently submitted by nurses to state regulatory agencies.
A spokesperson for HCA Healthcare confirmed that inspectors recently visited the facility, but declined to say why.
In another apparent blow to the hospital, Los Olivos Women’s Medical Group, an OBGYN medical practice affiliated with Stanford Health Care, stopped using Good Samaritan Hospital earlier this month for deliveries, surgeries and emergency care. Several sources from Good Samaritan said staff and security concerns prompted Los Olivos to choose another partner hospital. Los Olivos and its healthcare partner Stanford Health Care haven’t returned multiple calls from NBC Bay Area, but the Los Olivos website now says the practice will use nearby El Camino hospital in the future.
In a statement to NBC Bay Area, HCA spokesperson Janine de La Vega said patient safety was the hospital’s top priority and that “mothers and babies are in good hands with our top-notch doctors and healthcare teams “.
Staff violations in the labor and delivery department
But many complaints from nurses come from the Good Samaritan Labor and Delivery Department, where public health inspectors discovered four separate staff violations in 2019 alone.
“A review of staffing files for the week of 8/11/19 to 8/17/19 indicated that mandatory staffing ratios were not being met 5 days a week (8/11, 8/12, 8 / 13, 814 and 8/16) ”, indicates one of these reports.
The Good Samaritan’s health inspection records are currently not posted online, but in a statement, de la Vega said the hospital had committed similar violations again this year. Without specifying the department, she wrote: “We have self-reported some cases this spring where we experienced a lack of availability of nurses, and these were corrected quickly. We take personnel issues seriously and examine each one thoroughly.
“Oh, it’s scary some days to go to work,” said Diana Rossman, a nurse in the hospital’s high-risk prenatal department until. “You don’t know what kind of staff you’re going to get into. “
COVID vaccine controversy and CEO resignation
This week’s developments come just months after the hospital’s name made national headlines in January for allowing staff in a nearby school district to sign up for vaccines before being eligible according to county guidelines. Then CEO Joe DeSchryver resigned shortly thereafter. In an email to staff, DeSchryver wrote that he was leaving to seek “career advancement opportunities.”
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has spoken to more than 10 internal Good Samaritan sources about safety issues they believe could put patients at risk. In addition to staff violations, a review of state inspection records revealed other incidents that regulators said could put patients at risk.
These sources are now saying staff are leaving in droves and accusing the management of hospitals and HCA Healthcare of putting profits before patients.
“There is sadness and there is also a part of you that is angry, because this is what we should be focusing on now,” said Christine Weng, nurse in the intensive care unit. neonatal. “Our goal is to take care of patients so that they can return home to their families. “
High number of complaints, low hospital rating
State records show the Good Samaritan has received more than double the number of complaints in the past three years as an average California hospital of its size.
the Medicare and Medicaid Service Centers, which uses a five-star rating system to rate hospitals on their overall performance, awards two stars to Good Samaritain.
“It has become intolerable in the last 12 to 18 months,” Rossman said. “HCA makes its profits, and managers or directors get their bonuses from our blood, sweat and tears. “
After several requests, HCA Healthcare declined an interview with NBC Bay Area. He addressed the staffing violations in one of his multiple statements to this news organization.
“Patient safety is our top priority at Good Samaritan Hospital. As part of our quality improvement journey, when we encounter rare cases like these, we deal with them promptly and take action to prevent them from happening again, ”de la Vega wrote.
Other disturbing incidents
In addition to staffing violations, the NBC Bay Area investigation revealed several other disturbing incidents.
At the end of April, a patient flown in was stranded on the roof of the hospital for 16 minutes due to a malfunction of the heliport elevator. NBC Bay Area obtained cellphone video of the helicopter later landing in the hospital parking lot to unload the patient.
A spokesperson for the HCA confirmed the incident, saying there was no harm to the patient and that the elevators are now tested three times a day.
In October, Santa Clara County fined the hospital for giving patients insufficient notice of COVID testing, and separately, for denying a symptomatic patient, who was also a nurse at the hospital, a COVID test.
A month earlier, according to a state inspection report, a nurse saw a fly come out of a patient’s nose in the hospital’s intensive care unit. Living maggots were soon discovered alive inside.
In March 2019, a patient was left on a bedpan from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., leaving a deep tissue injury, according to a state inspection report.
And in 2018, a patient was found unconscious by his mother after accidentally receiving a double dose of painkillers, according to another inspection report.
The same year, a lawsuit accused the hospital of having lost a body because “another body was piled on top.” The Good Samaritan settled the lawsuit and told NBC Bay Area that changes were made after the storage protocol was violated.
Struck down by lawmakers
State Senator Dave Cortese, one of three South Bay lawmakers who took on the leaders of Good Samaritain and HCA Healthcare last week, said their letter came after months of discussions with the hospital.
“It’s really just an ongoing concern,” Cortese said. “There seems to be a certain level of hearing loss, a certain level of lack of worry and compassion.”
Despite recent Good Samaritan issues, business appears to be doing well for HCA Healthcare. The company’s stock price has roughly doubled since the start of the pandemic, and it made $ 3.8 billion in profits last year, up from $ 3.5 billion in 2019, according to financial reports. of the society.
Weng said she felt misled.
“They are using COVID as an excuse to say, ‘oh, we’ve lost so much money we’ve got to limit,'” she said.
According to Christopher Whaley, a researcher from the association RAND Company, the health care costs at Good Samaritan Hospital are higher than the national average. Not surprisingly, he says, given that its parent company is HCA Healthcare.
“The HCA is one of, if not the largest, hospital systems in the country,” Whaley said. “When hospitals expand, prices rise and the quality of care does not improve or, in some cases, deteriorates. “
Sources inside Good Samaritan say that HCA’s acquisition of Good Samaritan in 1996 was a negative turn for a hospital that has been a staple of South Bay healthcare for decades. Originally funded by the church, the hospital opened to patients in 1965, operating as a non-profit organization.
Now Weng and Rossman say they are reaching their limits.
“I really considered leaving,” Weng said.
They say the business side of healthcare at Good Samaritan hinders the delivery of care.
“You have to draw the line somewhere,” Rossman said.