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Management flaws at Md. state hospital detailed

HAGERSTOWN — The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Friday it has fined a state-owned chronic-care hospital $150,000 for deficiencies in the care of long-term residents that prompted the ouster of the facility’s chief executive and two medical staff leaders earlier this year.

A federally mandated, annual survey of the Western Maryland Hospital in Hagerstown last spring found 43 deficiencies, including a failure to report or fully investigate four allegations of abuse or neglect, according to a report by the department’s Office of Health Care Quality. The agency licenses Maryland health care facilities and enforces their compliance with state and federal regulations.

One allegation involved a resident of the facility’s long-term care unit who suffered a shoulder fracture of unknown origin. A night-shift nurse, informed by an assistant that the man was in pain, medicated him but failed to examine him thoroughly, the document states. No doctor was notified until the next day, delaying an x-ray until the afternoon.

Other deficiencies included the medical director’s failure to attend monthly meetings at which clinical issues were discussed, and improper safeguarding of medications.

No patient was found to have been hurt as a result of the deficiencies, said Dr. Mona Gahunia, chief medical officer for the state health department. She said 81 percent of the deficiencies had been corrected by July 31. Gahunia said she expects a second follow-up survey to show that the facility met an Aug. 7 deadline for correcting all the problems.

The facility’s director since 1997, Cynthia Pellegrino, resigned June 23 at the department’s request, Gahunia said. The hospital’s chief medical officer and the medical director of long-term care were replaced, she said. A nursing director’s job that had been vacant for four months was filled and an assistant director of nursing was hired.

The health department announced June 24 that it had contracted with Meritus Health, the private owner of the Hagerstown hospital, to run the state facility for the next six months.

Western Maryland Hospital Center provides nursing-home care, hospital care and rehabilitation services for patients with chronic health problems, including brain and spinal cord injuries. As of Friday, it had 38 nursing-home residents and 16 hospital patients, Gahunia said.