Thursday, January 26, 2006

King/Drew Managers Wake Up After Their "Serious Lethargy," Discipline or Fire One-Fifth of Their Staff

At the end of 2004, the Los Angeles Times ran a multi-part series on the troubles of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, many of which were attributed to management's failings. We posted on King/Drew more than a year ago.

This week, a follow-up story shows that a clean-up is beginning, but that there is a lot of cleaning to be done.
The new story focused on personnel issues. In summary, "more than a fifth of the staff ... has been fired or disciplined since January 2004 in an extraordinary crackdown prompted by revelations of widespread misconduct at the troubled public hospital."
Some of the more vivid anecdotes were:
  • A critical care nurse dozing off in a break room while one of her patients decompensated. She was fired, as was her supervisor, who had previously "frequently witnessed" her sleeping on the job.
  • A nursing attendant was arrested on her lunch break for battery. She then "had a family member call the hospital to say an 'unexpected emergency' would keep her from her shift. She was in jail."
  • "Several custodians goaded a belligerent patient struggling with a police officer, urging him to 'kick the police's ass.'"
  • The hospital "sent some chronically absent staffers what it called 'where are you?' letters after they didn't show up for days or weeks at a time." A technician was suspended after getting four such letters. After that, he missed three months out of the next seven, and was then fired. A nurse was fired after seven such warnings.
  • etc, etc, etc
Jim Lott, executive vice president of the state hospital association, said "there was a serious lethargy in management for years." That seems to be an understatement. But maybe the new management has woken up. That's good news, but the ongoing problems at King/Drew are a reminder that we need a better way to ensure good management of our hospitals and academic medical centers.

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