Safety report exposes concerns about UT Southwestern teaching hospital

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Numerous safety issues plague the teaching hospital for UT Southwestern Medical Center, according to a recent safety report.

Parkland Hospital serves as a workplace for UT Southwestern faculty and as a clinical learning environment for students. The 270 page report details incidents at Parkland Hospital in Dallas that are broken down into issues regarding quality of patient care, patient safety, infection prevention and supervision of medical residents. The Dallas Morning News published a leaked copy of the report online on Feb. 15, because the hospital has not officially released it.

The report is part of the hospital’s improvement plan in response to concerns from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The report, developed by the Alvarez and Marsal Healthcare Industry Group, said “we believe the current operation of Parkland’s Resident training program is contributing to the Hospital’s deficiencies.” One example in the report describes a resident failing six times to place a catheter in a patient without wearing sterile gloves. The lack of doctor oversight for students is noted in this case and in others.

UT Southwestern Office of Communications, Marketing, and Public Affairs vice president Timothy Doke said officials are not able to comment due to the continuing confidentiality of the report. However, Doke said the cases in the report should be put in the context of the overall medical work done by students and faculty.

“We do not believe anecdotal exceptions in any way represent the norm,” Doke said. “We are confident that our physicians-in-training receive appropriate supervision and that our faculty physicians are directly involved in the care being provided.”

UT Southwestern student Jonny Ahn said he is not worried that the environment of Parkland will affect his learning and said the hospital offers many clinical opportunities.

“We produce really great doctors because there are so many cases,” Ahn said.

Ahn also said Parkland is always bustling with patients, many of whom are financially needy and less likely to have practiced preventative health measures.

“To serve so many people with so few resources, it’s hard to keep things going,” Ahn said.

Parkland has received criticism for not officially releasing the taxpayer-paid report which is expected to cost about $7 million by the end of the review process. Interim CEO of the hospital Thomas Royer said the report has not been released due to confidentiality agreements. He said the confidentiality is not done to hide things from the public, but to allow Parkland officials to candidly discuss the report and how to make improvements.

“We’ve made sure we’ve been internally transparent so we can self-report what we think we are not doing correctly,” Royer said.

Royer said another concern about releasing the report is that it could lead to lawsuits against the hospital.

“The report can be used for legal actions that we think could be extremely costly and cost our taxpayers,” he said. “We need to be responsible for our taxpayer income.”

Royer said the report shows challenges that the hospital will work on, but said that is the nature of the report in order to be constructive.

“I would tell you even in light of the findings, which are significant and need to be corrected, we indeed have many, many cases that are performed well,” Royer said.

The report is part of the hospital’s plan to improve patient safety conditions, which includes those areas that involve UT Southwestern faculty and students.

“We certainly have a strong relationship with UT Southwestern,” Royer said. “We have very complex patients that provide a good foundation for learning.”

Royer said Parkland provides UT Southwestern the opportunity for students to get experience beyond the classroom and for faculty to practice research beyond the lab. “That is where UT is affected and hopefully they will continue to see improvements,” Royer said.

Printed on Friday, February 24, 2012 as: UT Southwestern partner violates safety protocols