Magazine article Drug Topics

Fined $1 Million, Hospital Installs Narcotic Tracking

Magazine article Drug Topics

Fined $1 Million, Hospital Installs Narcotic Tracking

Article excerpt

HEALTH-SYSTEM EDITION

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE

Memorial Hospital of Salem County, in Salem, N.J., recently paid a $1 million civil fine as part of a settlement it reached with the U.S. Attorney's Office. The 140-bed South Jersey community hospital got into legal hot water with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for violating inventory practice guidelines and failing to report missing narcotics. The hospital also incurred the wrath of the New Jersey State Department of Health, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and other government agencies.

In late September, just before it was taken over by an out-of-state hospital management firm, Memorial not only settled its legal problems but also put measures in place to help it get back on the right track. As part of the settlement agreement, Memorial promised to clean up its act. One of the first things hospital management did was hire an outside healthcare consulting firm to make sure that its inventory and recording-keeping system is capable of being accounted for.

Enter Nashville-based Smith Seckman Reid Inc., specialists in operations and regulatory management. The firm conducted a root-cause analysis into Memorial's pharmacy operations and found problems with basic product tracking, inventory, storage, and security, said Delanor Manson, R.N., who worked on the Memorial project.

"Memorial needed a comprehensive team to look at processes and how they impacted on the operations for the hospital," Manson said. She noted that her team discovered that hospital policies and procedures met neither government nor JCAHO requirements. "There needed to be some implementation of new tools for ordering, tracking, inventory, storage, and security of drugs."

Manson said that among the recommendations made to Salem's personnel was the implementation of a log when ordering narcotics-a system of tracking drugs once they enter the hospital, designating which personnel would receive them and where they would be stored. "Their policies, procedures, tools, and forms were not being used in the right way. There was a lack of focus on managing the narcotics. The drugs were not in the places they were supposed to be. …

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