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Erring Hospital Ordered To Halt Elective Surgery

A hospital where doctors amputated the wrong foot of a diabetic man was ordered Friday to suspend elective surgery, state regulators said.

The problems at University Community Hospital that led to the botched surgery and other mistakes pose a threat to patient safety, the Agency for Health Care Administration said.

The agency ordered the suspension to begin at midnight Friday and last until all medical and surgical staff have been trained in new procedures that aim to prevent future mistakes.

That includes all 326 surgeons who practice at the hospital.

“The pattern of failure to adhere to safe medical and surgical practices has jeopardized patient safety,” agency director Doug Cook said in a letter to the hospital.

He noted a series of mistakes in the last three months, including the amputation, the death of a patient who was mistakenly removed from a ventilator and an arthroscopic surgery on the wrong knee.

The ban does not affect other services such as emergency room care or operations for in-house patients whose conditions deteriorate and require surgery.

Hospital President Norm Stein said his staff is trying to comply while disrupting scheduled surgeries as little as possible. Normally, he said, the hospital performs more than 60 surgical procedures a day during the week, and between eight and 10 over the weekend.

The state action comes on the heels of the federal Health Care Financing Administration’s declaration of an “immediate and serious” threat to patient safety.

The federal agency gave the hospital until April 20 to fix procedural problems or lose Medicare and Medicaid funding, which accounts for $52 million a year, nearly a third of the hospital’s business.