UCSD Delays Opening New Heart Center

UCSD delayed the opening of its Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center — San Diego’s first dedicated heart center — due to care issues within existing emergency rooms. The center, scheduled to open in April 4, is now planned to open later this month.

UCSD Health System donors and community leaders held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 4 in front of SCVC, which is located next to Thornton Hospital. Six years since Richard and Gaby Sulpizio donated $10 million to help build the center, and over two years after the construction began, administrators postponed the opening of the four-story center in order to address two recent incidents in existing emergency rooms at Thornton Hospital.

In February, Elizabeth Maher — an 89-year-old nursing home patient who attempted suicide after being diagnosed with liver cancer — was admitted to Thornton Hospital. A state public health department report said a psychologist placed Maher under suicide watch. But a nurse assumed the watch was lifted and left her unattended, during which the patient strangled herself with an oxygen tube.

The other incident, which took place March 24, involved a woman who went to Hillcrest Medical Center’s ER for a burn on the roof of her mouth and refused to leave after treatment. The report revealed that she had a history of breathing problems and had visited the hospital four times before. Security guards, a charge nurse and a technician carried her to a sidewalk and lay her face down. Later, the ER nurse manager warned that lying face-down could impair breathing. The patient, when turned over, underwent respiratory and cardiac arrest. The report cited the hospital’s failure to provide proper medical care as well as its breach of respect for the patient.

The state issued a 62-page “Statement of Deficiencies” report to the university and ordered it to fix the two hospitals’ emergency departments so that such incidents will not reoccur.

“It is important to note that this delay is not related to our cardiovascular care nor to the physical readiness of the SCVC building,” UCSD spokesperson Jacqueline Carr said.

The hospital’s clinical teams and regulatory affairs conducted an in-depth review of the two incidents in order to improve the hospital’s care system.

“We have responded by rapidly implementing a comprehensive plan of correction which includes improved communication, new systems for re-evaluating patients, careful monitoring of compliance with our established policies and procedures and appropriate disciplinary action,” Carr said.

Investigators attributed the incidents to a severe lack of communication between hospital personnel. According to a San Diego Union-Tribune article titled, “State orders fixes at 2 UCSD emergency rooms,” one of the corrections will be that doctors will be required to re-assess any patients reluctant to be discharged.

UCSD submitted a correction plan to the California Department of Public Health. Details of the plan cannot be revealed until approved by CDPH. Pending the plan’s approval, UCSD will request a final inspection — which, if passed, will result in the issuance of a license and the center’s opening.

According to Carr, the new center will be will have 54 in-patient beds, four cardiovascular operating rooms, four cardiac catheterization laboratories, a non-invasive cardiovascular laboratory, outpatient clinics and an expanded emergency department.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal