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‘Battlefield Conditions’ Reported at Hospital in Inglewood

Times Staff Writer

An Inglewood hospital that specializes in abortions is in danger of losing its license and state and federal reimbursements because of unsanitary conditions and inadequate care, health officials said Wednesday.

There is a long record of “battlefield conditions” at Inglewood Women’s Hospital, said Ralph Lopez, director of the health facilities division of the county Department of Health Services.

The clinic, which also faces a lawsuit over the death of a patient in January, performs about 1,000 abortions a month in its single operating room, according to county and state health officials, who cited the hospital for numerous health violations in a 29-page report sent to the hospital last week.

The hospital’s administrator, Sunny Crocker, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

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The report described patients being rushed through abortions performed in an operating room where tables and floors were stained with the blood of previous patients. Doctors at the hospital reportedly did not adequately monitor patients under anesthesia, and medical personnel did not wash their hands and equipment between operations, inspectors said.

Some patients “were encouraged to leave the facility before they felt comfortable doing so,” and some were not examined by doctors after surgery although the physicians signed paper work approving their discharge, the report said.

The hospital at 426 East 99th St. was ordered to respond by Dec. 15 with a letter explaining how it will correct the problems.

Many similar violations of the state’s Hospital Code and other laws were found during inspections conducted in May and February of this year, according to county Department of Health Services records. Although health facilities are licensed by the state, inspections are conducted by the county.

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The hospital was also cited twice in 1986, said county department official Robert Karp, with one inspection coming after a doctor who was fired from the facility complained about the number of patients being treated and inadequate care.

Each time, the hospital submitted the required correction plan, and health officials accepted it.

The most “realistic” way the hospital could respond to the latest report would be to shut down voluntarily while making improvements, said Lopez, the county health official.

“We expect a comprehensive, in-depth plan of correction from them,” Lopez said. “If we can’t accept it, we’re going to be faced with a serious decision” on whether to seek revocation of the hospital’s state license.

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A separate complaint from County-USC Medical Center about Inglewood Women’s Hospital could lead to suspension of its Medicare and Medi-Cal funding, Lopez said.

In October, officials at the women’s hospital at County-USC reported that a woman who came to Inglewood Women’s Hospital for an abortion and suffered complications was transferred to County-USC in unstable condition and without notice, a violation of federal law against “dumping” patients in emergency rooms.

“We’ve investigated them to death in past years,” said Joseph Scally of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office in San Francisco. But previous investigations found no problems warranting suspension of funding, he said.

Scally said the new state report will likely result in another inspection and investigation of the facility. If they determine that a violation occurred, federal officials could move to cut off funding within several weeks, Scally said. In effect, that would shut down the facility because it relies heavily on such payments, he said.

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Inglewood Women’s Hospital is owned by Inglewood General Hospital Corp. Inc., a corporation headed by Dr. Morton Barke, officials said. The hospital, Barke and Dr. Steven Pine are being sued for $12 million by the family of Belinda Byrd, a 37-year-old Inglewood woman and mother of three who died Jan. 27 after an abortion three days earlier.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Pine performed an abortion that lacerated Byrd’s uterus and that she lay bleeding and unattended for three hours in a hospital bed until she suffered a heart attack. Paramedics were summoned, and she was rushed to Centinela Medical Center in Inglewood, where she died.

Neither Barke nor Pine could be reached for comment.

A report on a February investigation into Byrd’s death conducted by the county Department of Health Services found violations including “no evidence of surgical outpatients . . . being evaluated by a physician prior to discharge” and other substandard post-operative care.

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