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CPR cards bogus, hospital finds

Times Staff Writer

UC Irvine Medical Center has disciplined 22 employees caught in the last month with falsified certificates showing they passed cardiopulmonary resuscitation training, officials acknowledged this week.

The fake certificates came to light after an employee presented one during a required recertification class May 15, and a subsequent investigation discovered 21 others. The review was completed June 15. UCI officials said patient care was not affected

Campus police are investigating where the cards came from, if they were bought, and if so, how much they cost, UCI spokeswoman Susan Mancia said. No arrests have been made.

“Every individual associated with University of California, Irvine Medical Center is expected to uphold the university’s high standard of integrity,” UCI said in a statement. “In line with our commitment to providing the highest-quality patient care, we are addressing this issue immediately and aggressively.”

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UCI officials disclosed details of the case in response to questions from The Times. Officials declined to provide specifics about the nature of the discipline or who held the cards, other than to say that the employees were directly responsible for patient care.

The disciplined employees represent roughly 1% of UCI workers who are required to take CPR training.

Medical personnel with direct and indirect responsibility for patient care are required to have CPR training; this includes doctors, nurses and medical assistants, Mancia said.

UCI, like most hospitals, makes it easy for employees to receive CPR certification. The UCI course takes only four to six hours, and employees are allowed to attend it during work hours at no cost. Recertification is required every two years. Employees must pass a written test and demonstrate the skill on a dummy.

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“Keeping skill levels at their peak is essential for frontline hospital workers, because they can be called into action to save a person’s life while on duty at a hospital at any given moment,” said Jim Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Assn. of Southern California.

“This is not a casual requirement, it’s a very serious requirement.”

CPR can mean the difference between life and death for patients who have stopped breathing or suffered cardiac arrest.

The procedure, which consists of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compression, can restart a heart and keep the brain healthy by forcing air into a patient’s body before more intensive medical help arrives. If administered properly, it helps patients make a full recovery; if not, people can suffer lifetime disabilities.

UCI has been working to overcome a history of scandals in its medical programs, which have ranged from doctors in its fertility clinic stealing eggs and embryos from patients, bodies missing from the medical school’s cadaver program and failings in the hospital’s bone marrow, liver and kidney transplant programs.

This is not the first time personnel at a hospital have been caught with fake CPR cards. Last year, nearly 500 nurses and other staff members at then Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center had to be retrained in CPR after Los Angeles County auditors discovered one of the hospital’s primary instructors improperly sold them certification cards.

christian.berthelsen@latimes.com


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