Valdez hospital institutes new rules in response to complaints

Posted: Monday, August 06, 2001

VALDEZ (AP) -- Valdez Hospital has adopted new visitation rules after state inspectors investigated complaints that several doctors had their children present during patient exams and operations.

''We essentially adopted policies controlling visitation,'' James Culley, chief executive officer of the Valdez Regional Health Authority, told the Valdez Vanguard. The health authority operates the Valdez hospital.

In late June investigators from the state from Health Facilities Licensing and Certification interviewed staff at the hospital after learning that three of the hospital's four physicians were bringing their children into examination and operating rooms. The complaints stemmed from incidents in May and June.

Among the complaints:

--A physician allowed his daughter to assist in placing a cast on a patient.

--A physician allowed a child into the operating while surgery was being performed.

--A doctor had to leave a 79-year-old patient, in pain from hip manipulation, when his child became frightened by the patient's screams and had to be taken from the examining room.

--A physician brought his 2-month-old infant and 4-year-old child into the examining room while conducting a vaginal exam on a pregnant woman.

In all of the incidents, the physicians first asked the patients' permission to bring the children into the room. But hospital officials expressed concern that the visits were pressed upon the patients at the last minute and that, with children in the room, the doctors could not give the patients undivided attention.

Under the new policy, permission must be obtained from the patient, physician, nurse and hospital administrator before an individual will be allowed to visit areas such as an operating room. The visitor also must have some training in the areas of health sciences and patient rights.

Culley said that if the board did not adopt the new policies in response to the inspector's report the hospital could have faced the possibility of being shut down.

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