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Los Angeles Times

Tenet Cited by State, Nurses Union Says

by Debora Vrana
Apr 03, 2003

A small hospital in Northern California owned by troubled Tenet Healthcare Corp. was cited in recent reports by state investigators for various patient-care violations, including having outdated, mislabeled drugs and failing to provide a sufficient number of surgeons for major operations, a nurses union said Tuesday.

The 123-bed San Ramon Regional Medical Center was cited for improper procedures during cardiac surgery and other violations, after an investigation by the state Department of Health Services in response to complaints about the hospital, the California Nurses Assn. said.

"These findings are a shocking indictment," said Kay McVay, president of the group, which represents 50,000 nurses. "They point to an alarming pattern of shoddy practices."

But executives at the San Ramon medical center, which is in a dispute with the nurses union over an election last fall to unionize the hospital, said Tuesday's announcement was an attempt to discredit the hospital, said Kim Burch, a spokeswoman for the San Ramon facility.

"We're not going to get into anything specific in the union allegations," said Steven Campanini, Tenet's director of media relations. "This is an inflammatory effort by the CNA to organize our nurses," he said.

"We got a complaint about the hospital, and that sparked the investigation," said Scott Vivona, a spokesman for the licensing division at the Department of Health Services. The hospital "gave us back a plan of corrections," he said.

Santa Barbara-based Tenet, the state's largest operator of hospitals, with 40 locations in California, is in the midst of federal investigations at some of its other hospitals. One probe centers on allegations that doctors at a Redding hospital performed unnecessary surgeries, and another on whether the company violated doctor recruiting laws at a San Diego hospital.

Tenet also is facing a federal investigation into whether its collection of unusually large Medicaid reimbursement payments was proper. The company denies wrongdoing.

Among the findings by state investigators at Tenet's San Ramon hospital, according to the nurses union:

* During cardiac surgery, there were cases in which a third surgeon was not present in the operating room, as is required by the hospital's own policies.

* The hospital failed to ensure the proper credentialing and certification of pediatric nurses.
Tenet's shares closed at $16.77, up 7 cents, Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.