Why the Obstetrics Ward Ordered to be Shutdown at Washington D.C.’s United Medical Center

Why the Obstetrics Ward Ordered to be Shutdown at Washington D.C.'s United Medical CenterBack in August, regulators from the Washington, D.C. Department of Health closed the Obstetrics Department at the United Medical Center, the only full-service hospital in Southeast Washington. The Washington Post obtained a letter to Luis A. Hernandez, CEO of UMC, from the D.C. Department of Health, advising him that they were restricting the hospital’s license, and that they were to immediately stop treating and admitting new obstetric patients. The letter went on to explain why the license was being restricted. Some of those reasons included:

  • Failure to conduct follow up testing on screening on a newborn
  • Allowing the vaginal birth of a newborn to a mother with HIV and a high viral load at the time of delivery, when a Cesarean Section should have been performed
  • Failing to order a PCR test on the newborn
  • Failure to administer Nevirapine between 48 and 72 hours after birth
  • Failure to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the mother who had a history of pre-eclampsia and acute respiratory distress

In one case, against a physician’s order, the hospital failed to document pulse ox monitoring of the mother who was in respiratory distress. In another, the staff neither monitored nor treated a pregnant woman who had difficulty breathing, despite her history of high blood pressure.

The department will be shut down for 90 days, though the restrictions could be lifted. According to another Post article, this one published in September:

“The District’s top health regulator first warned leaders of the city’s only public hospital about serious problems in its obstetrics ward in March, five months before she took the extraordinary step of shutting down the facility’s nursery and delivery rooms, hospital managers and city health-care officials said Friday…. It shows that even with abundant time to remedy the problems, hospital managers were unable to bring the obstetrics ward up to the minimum safety standards necessary to avoid the closure, which has put the long-troubled hospital in renewed financial jeopardy and left two wards of the city without a place for women to give birth.”

UMC is a hospital that serves predominately poor, predominately African American residents with live in the Southeast sector of the city. Closing the maternity ward forced women to travel far from home to hospitals in other parts of the city, both for prenatal care and for deliveries. There is no news as to whether or not the hospital will be prepared to reopen, though the District of Columbia Nurses Association recently voted “no confidence” in UMC’s leadership.

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