Inspection data could prompt stories about COVID-19 problems in hospitals

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is the director of education for AHCJ and plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He also leads the organization's data collection and data instruction efforts.

patient on ventilator

Photo: Ninian Reid via Flickr

AHCJ has updated its public Hospital­Inspections.org website to give people a better glimpse of potential COVID-19 problems at some hospitals around the country. For reporters, the inspection reports may prompt news stories on how local hospitals are handling the pandemic.

The data covers January 2011 through the third quarter of 2020. A search for the term “covid” returns 73 records of hospital inspection reports from March 25 through Sept. 16.

Terms such as “coronavirus,” “corona virus” or “SARS-CoV-2” also can return records, although some may be duplicates if the report uses more than one term. Also, some records may not apply to the pandemic if a reported incident of a coronavirus isn’t the same one that causes COVID-19.

Many of the inspectors cite hospitals for failing to properly screen staff and visitors. Other hospitals have fallen short in managing personal protection equipment. For example, one report says that based on:

“… observation, interview and document review, the facility failed to provide active surveillance for COVID-19 infection when the facility failed to daily take and record temperatures of staff and visitors as part of their screening for COVID-19. This had the potential to impact staff and patients.”

The reports identify specific hospitals and, in some instances, dates. They don’t name individuals, but hospital employees often can be identified by title (director of nursing or chief executive officer).

The site allows searches by keyword, city, state or hospital name. AHCJ uses a file from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to update the database.

In addition to the site’s public portion, AHCJ members can download the latest data for more detailed searches and analysis. Members also have access to resources and tip sheets about how to best use the data in their reporting.

The website includes the results of government inspections of acute-care hospitals, critical-access (rural) hospitals and psychiatric hospitals resulting from complaints. It does not include reports of deficiencies detected at long-term care hospitals, nor have the results of routine hospital inspections.

AHCJ launched the site in March 2013 following years of advocacy urging the government to release the deficiency reports in electronic format. Until then, reporters and the public had to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with CMS or state agencies to obtain the documents.

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