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Bungled probe nearly cost hospital federal dollars

Apr 7, 2014


By The Associated Press

PORTLAND — Officials at a Portland hospital had to draft a hurried plan of action to avoid losing Medicare funding after a federal agency determined the hospital failed to thoroughly investigate a series of complaints from patients who accused an emergency room nurse of sex abuse.

The Oregonian reports it obtained the findings after a public records request.

The investigation revealed how Legacy Emanuel Medical Center staff repeatedly bungled their handling of the complaints against nurse Jeffrey N. McAllister.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that staff flouted federal regulations designed to protect patients, and the agency threatened to withhold $250 million in Medicare funding.

“The hospital failed to ensure that it protected and promoted each patient's right to receive care in a safe setting,” the federal review found. “The hospital failed to ensure that it had systems in place to prohibit and prevent sexual abuse, including conducting a thorough investigation of an allegation of sexual abuse.”

The hospital fired McAllister a year ago. He has since been indicted and accused of sexually abusing 10 patients at the hospital between October 2009 and April 2013. He has pleaded not guilty.

The hospital hasn't disciplined any of its employees who handled the complaints against McAllister.

“I'll be honest with you, it never occurred to us we would ever need policies to protect our patients from our own staff,” said Dr. Lori J. Morgan, Legacy Emanuel's vice president and chief administrative officer. “Our staff followed all of the procedures that were in place at the time. No one would ever, ever knowingly allow someone to harm patients.”

State inspectors, on behalf of the federal agency, made an unannounced visit to the hospital last August after McAllister's arrest in July, and examined the handling of two complaints against McAllister. According to the investigation, staff didn't properly document complaints; dismissed allegations without interviewing some of the patients; kept McAllister on the job during inquiries; and in one case, put a patient at risk by emailing her detailed allegations directly to McAllister.

Since the federal investigation, Multnomah County prosecutors have verified a total of 10 sex abuse complaints from Legacy Emanuel patients against McAllister.

“None of those people received corrective action,” Morgan said. “They followed the policies at the time.”

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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