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KCBX Two-Way: Health and safety violations jeopardize Lompoc hospital's Medicare certification

Willis Jacobson
The Lompoc Valley Medical Center is the subject of a grassroots campaign called Lompoc Citizens for Hospital Safety.

The Lompoc Valley Medical Center is at risk of losing its Medicare, Medicaid, and Medi-Cal certifications after a routine review from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found several violations at the facility.

Willis Jacobson is a reporter for Lee Central Coast News, publisher of the Lompoc Record and other newspapers. He's been covering this story and spoke with KCBX News on the phone about his reporting.

KCBX: Tell me about the details of this report. What did they find?

JACOBSON: There are a lot of different things. I guess you could say it ranged in severity. The majority of the issues seemed to be technical or policy-related with staff. But there were things like when the team was there, they walked past a room and a computer screen was up with the patients confidential information displayed on the screen, while it was unattended. Which, you know, is one of the knocks. There were other things like air quality tests. [CMS] found that there are pathogens in the air. And a specialist in infection prevention told the hospital [there] could have been pathogens from the patient population that were just traveling through the air. In the pharmacy, they found the proper cleaning fluids weren't being used to clean countertops before mixing medications. IVs weren't being labeled correctly. There were some issues with the food service where food is being kept out longer than it should. Or that there weren't records on how long the food is being kept out and the temperatures of the food. And also the cleaning fluid in the in the food area also weren't being tested properly. They found that there's just a wide range of issues that amounted to this 128-page report. The CEO of the Lompoc Valley Medical Center, Jim Raggio, noted that they've had four of these checks in the last 12 months. But, this clearly was the worst of them. He said they've never had one that's been this severe in nature. With all that said, he still said he has no concerns that they'll pass or follow up. You know, because of this, the state sent him a letter that they could lose Medi-Cal certification and they could also lose Medicare and Medicaid. And that makes up two-thirds of their business. So that would not be something they could survive. The important thing is that they get everything fixed up because they'll have another surprise inspection in between now and June 8, which is when those deadlines are for [with the threat of losing] Medi-Cal and Medicare.

KCBX: If the hospital ends up losing their Medicare, Medicaid, and Medi-Cal patients, where would those patients go in the Lompoc area? Is there any place else to go that's not far away?

JACOBSON: In the Lompoc Valley, there aren't many other options. There are other clinics - Sansum Clinic. But for a full-service hospital and emergency room with 24 hour care, they pretty much would be forced to make the trip to either Santa Barbara or Goleta or Santa Maria. This is something that would be critical, if things don't go the way that the Lompoc Valley Medical Center administration seems to think it will go.

KCBX: You mentioned a little bit about the reaction of the hospital to this report. But can you get into a little more detail about how they responded?  

JACOBSON: Well, I've only spoken to the CEO of the hospital and he was very straightforward. No doubt in his mind that everything that was raised in this report - which was released in March...the actual inspections were done in fact in the first week of February, so they've had a few months to go over this - [Raggio] was very confident in that everything has been corrected since then. And some of the things he said were corrected while the team was still [at the hospital] for that week of inspections. A lot of the other things amounted to just educating staff on the policies and making sure that those policies were being followed, which were a lot of the problems in this report.

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