New York state's health department last week levied an $80,000 fine against Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) for serious lapses in quality assurance, the harshest penalty imposed on a New York hospital in 15 years and the maximum fine allowable under state law.
The tough enforcement action stems from a state investigation at the 617-bed hospital following alleged medical errors committed by Ehud Arbit, M.D., chairman of neurosurgery. The health department said it found 40 violations of state law. Each carried a $2,000 fine.
"(The hospital) did not have sufficient systems in place to prevent serious medical errors-and it also did not have critical systems in place to identify and correct such errors," Antonia Novello, M.D., state health commissioner, said.
Under New York law, hospitals must report medical errors. The health department said SIUH failed to report any of the cases cited in the department's investigation.
The fine comes at a time when federal lawmakers are considering various legislative proposals to reduce medical mistakes by hospitals and physicians. President Clinton late last month recommended that every state implement a mandatory medical error reporting system (Feb. 28, p. 2).
SIUH said it had and would continue to cooperate with the state "on every aspect of the investigation." The hospital said it hoped to begin implementing improved monitoring, quality and credentialing systems within a few days.
In February Arbit surrendered his license voluntarily. But the hospital pointed out that New York's office of professional medical conduct has not completed an independent review of the doctor's actions.