State and national health care officials began looking into patient care at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville yesterday in connection with allegations that a nurse there might have contributed to the deaths of one or more patients.
The Maryland Office of Healthcare Quality and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations spent the day touring the hospital, examining patient charts and interviewing employees and patients about the hospital's delivery of services. Such reviews are conducted whenever there is an issue that deals with the quality of care at a hospital, officials said.
"In this case, it's been a widely publicized situation," said J.B. Hanson, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees the state health care quality office.
The review is the latest inquiry by health and law enforcement agencies into the nursing activities of Coleen M. Thompson, who was fired last month by the Montgomery County hospital after suspicions that her actions might have led to the deaths of patients in the hospital's 26-bed intensive care unit.
One family has filed suit against the hospital and Thompson in connection with the death of a patient under her care. Last month, the state Board of Nursing suspended Thompson's nursing license after its investigation determined that she had failed to follow proper medical procedures during the hours leading up to the death of another patient, a 63-year-old woman, in the hospital's ICU on July 6.
The nursing board has scheduled a hearing on Thompson's license suspension for Aug. 26.
The county police and the state's attorney's office are continuing their investigations, but no charges have been filed against Thompson.
Hanson said the state health care agency began its inquiry because police investigators had completed their preliminary investigation at the hospital.
He said the length of the state team's review has not been determined.
The accreditation commission was expected yesterday to spend one day on its inquiry. The organization will then make a report within 30 to 45 days, said Mark Forstneger, a commission spokesman.
The accreditation commission usually conducts a survey of a hospital every three years. Forstneger said yesterday's review was classified as a "special review" that was prompted by Thompson's case.
"So far, there hasn't been any change in their accreditation status," Forstneger said.
The commission placed Shady Grove on preliminary non-accreditation status three years ago, after a review of patient care. The hospital was returned to full accreditation after a re-inspection that year.
Robert Jepson, a Shady Grove spokesman, said yesterday's inquiries were expected and welcomed by the hospital. He said the hospital is providing any required support.
"We anticipated at some point that they would arrive for a review," Jepson said. "We're cooperating with them."