TAMPA - Town and Country Hospital has been ordered to stop taking new surgical patients after a state investigation into the deaths of three patients in October.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration, which is looking into the patient deaths and several other cases, ordered the immediate moratorium on admissions last week.
A report on the matter was first uncovered by the ABC Action News I-Team.
The AHCA report claims Town and Country Hospital has licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, do some of the work of registered nurses, or RNs. RNs have specialized training, and the law requires they supervise patient care under certain circumstances.
Citing several cases, the report claims documentation was not kept to show that RNs were doing proper checks on patients.
There are also allegations that LPNs made decisions about patient care that were supposed to be made by RNs. In one case, a patient's move to the intensive care unit was delayed by 20 minutes. That patient later died.
Another patient's chart lacked documentation to show why the patient wasn't getting the IV fluids prescribed by a doctor. That patient also later died.
It's not clear from the report whether the patient deaths could have been prevented.
But the AHCA states in the report that current conditions at the hospital "present a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of its patients."
The AHCA report goes on to state that the hospital's "nursing services in its medical surgical units are not meeting patients' needs to the level required by law."
"These events are not isolated," the report added.
Staff members even reportedly told investigators that they didn't have enough RNs to cover the number of patients they had.
"This is a somewhat remarkable admission," said Tampa attorney Dale R. Sisco.
The I-Team asked Sisco, who has experience with medical malpractice cases, to review the AHCA report.
"I don't think it's over yet," Sisco said. "I think there's going to be ongoing investigations and a review of what's happened."
Town and Country Hospital declined a request for an on-camera interview.
But Dale A. Johns, the hospital's chief executive officer, told ABC Action News in a written statement:
"Town and Country Hospital has provided high quality patient care in Tampa for more than 30 years, so this news is concerning to us and our many experienced care givers.
"Consistent with our long-term commitment to comply with all regulatory requirements, we are responding seriously and expeditiously to the action items raised by Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration. We are working cooperatively with the Agency and bringing all necessary resources to fully respond to its requirements.
"The hospital's corrective action plan was submitted to the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, and we hope to be admitting medical surgical patients very soon.
"In the meantime, our top priority is providing high quality care to the patients currently in the hospital who are not affected by the recent order."
The ban on admitting new surgical patients is temporary. The hospital can still admit patients to the emergency room, ICU, and other departments. AHCA will determine if and when the surgical units can take on new patients again.
Do you have information about patient care at Town and Country Hospital or at other Tampa Bay area health care providers? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last week, the I-Team was there when 99-year-old Willi Berchau was released from Florida's guardianship program after a three year court battle.