The Main Stream

Feb 15, 2010 1:28 PM

Tucson hospital under the microscope

TUCSON - The Arizona Department of Health Services is reporting cases of patient neglect, medication errors and stresses-out staff at Cornerstone Hospital, and one former employees agrees.

Things have gotten so bad that the state has limited the number of patients the hospital takes in, and the facility must undergo frequent inspections.

"The word I would use, it's abuse," says a former nurse at Cornerstone Hospital. She says patients and staff were treated poorly.

Inspectors with the State Department of Health services are familiar with stories like this.

Their reports paint an alarming picture of what's happening at Cornerstone. It's a 34 bed facility designed for the long-term care of patients with illnesses and injuries.

Here are just a few examples from repeated state inspections.

In one case, a doctor ordered that his patient be turned and repositioned every two hours, but records show that many times, he was not turned for at least 10 hours.

Another patient missed many meals over days and days, and waited four hours for a nurse to answer his call light.

There are also numerous reports of the hospital pharmacy failing to keep records of medicines and proper doses, and even failing to give certain medicines that doctors ordered.

State reports also say patients weren't having their wounds cared for properly, and nurses complained of being overworked and stressed.

That former nurse says that caused neglect among patients, even the most critically ill, surviving through breathing tubes.

"I've seen a patient die at Cornerstone because the vent, he coughed or something," says the former nurse. "The vent became disconnected. There was no one around to go in and check on the patient and the patient died.

All this has led to an enforcement agreement with the state. Stating Cornerstone will be targeted for frequent inspections and they must improve patient care and as of now, they're limited to caring for just 22 patients.

Alan Oppneheim with the Arizona Dept. of Health services says, "Sometimes there's cases where it gets pretty egregious and we take them to enforcement as we did with Cornerstone here, and you would hope even after the enforcement that they would go "whoa, we've got some issues, practices, processes that we've got to take a pretty heavy look at and get them corrected.'"

In an effort to be balanced, we contacted Cornerstone for their side of the story. The issued the following statement: "Since September, Cornerstone Hospital has been under new management. We are committed to the ongoing improvement of the health and well-being of the patients we serve by providing an environment of teamwork, integrity and satisfaction"

But this former nurse and several others we spoke with say something must be done to crackdown on what they call horrible care at Cornerstone.

State inspectors just completed yet another investigation of Cornerstone Hospital and they say there are still significant problems with patient care at that facility. In fact, the state met with Cornerstone officials earlier this week and inspectors say they'll be keeping Cornerstone under the microscope.

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