LA County health officials dispel allegations medical staff endangered babies

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Los Angeles County’s health department is downplaying allegations that workers put babies in danger at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. A number of anonymous complaints accused employees at the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of serious negligence.

Some said staff dropped babies and gave infants the wrong milk. Another allegation — made to an accreditation agency — said workers risked babies’ health by running a makeshift beauty salon inside an intensive care unit for newborns. LA County Health Department chief Carol Meyer said an investigation proves that’s an overblown accusation.

“People did put on nail polish,” said Meyer. “We’re talking about a bottle of polish, a nail file and a pair of tweezers. We do not condone this kind of activity at Olive View Medical Center or in the Department of Health Services.”

Meyer said a small number of workers received beauty treatments while they were on break or off duty. The hospital has placed two staffers on paid leave, and Meyer said it may discipline others.

As far as the other complaints go, Meyer admits that a staffer dropped a baby — but that a nurse saved the infant from falling to the floor. Although one baby did receive another newborn’s milk, she said, workers did not endanger any of their tiny patients.

L.A. County investigators questioned at least 80 Olive View staffers to determine whether the complaints had any basis in fact.

Olive View-UCLA Medical Center forwarded the investigation results to the Joint Commission, a national hospital accrediting agency.