UC Irvine Medical Center ordered to improve ‘medication management’

State inspectors making a surprise follow-up visit to UC Irvine Medical Center last week found two deficiencies in “medication management” and issued an “immediate jeopardy” warning, alleging that patient care was at risk, hospital officials acknowledged Thursday.

The warning, which was lifted Wednesday, is one of the most serious that can be issued to a hospital.

UC Irvine Medical Center: An article in Friday’s LATExtra section about state inspectors forcing UC Irvine Medical Center to fix “medication management” problems said that once investigators issue a deficiency report, hospital officials have up to a month to respond with a plan of correction. Hospital officials generally have 10 days to respond. —

UC Irvine Medical Center’s chief executive, Terry A. Belmont, disclosed the findings by state inspectors working on behalf of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in e-mails sent to the staff this week and last week.

In the latest e-mail to staff members Wednesday, Belmont said hospital officials already have submitted plans to improve care.

“Though the inspectors lifted the findings and no patients were harmed, the survey identified additional areas that require our attention,” he wrote. “We are acting aggressively to correct them.”

A hospital spokesman would not disclose the medication problems. State and federal regulators said they were still investigating and could not comment. Once they issue a deficiency report, hospital officials have up to a month to respond with a plan of correction.

Federal investigators have documented repeated examples of poor oversight at the hospital and previously have threatened to cut Medicare funding.

In July, Medicare officials issued a finding of immediate jeopardy after investigators discovered that five UCI patients had received overdoses because nurses using pain medication pumps were not properly trained.

UCI officials immediately began training nurses to use the pumps, the finding was lifted within 24 hours and the hospital submitted a plan of correction.

But during a surprise October inspection, regulators said they observed poor oversight and mistakes by UCI doctors, nurses and pharmacists, leading to inadequate care that in some cases harmed patients.

The hospital submitted a plan of correction in January, and the latest inspection was a follow-up.

Belmont told the staff in his statement that hospital leaders plan to hire an outside consulting team to advise them about how to improve pharmacy services.

He also said they plan to fill the vacant positions of interim director of pharmacy services and interim chief nursing officer with outside hires.