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Hospital's treatment of critically ill infants scrutinized

May 7, 2010 |  8:01 am

Serious questions have emerged about whether Olive View- UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar has continued treating critically ill babies long after state officials said the hospital lacked the doctors to do so properly and told the facility to transfer such high-risk patients.

State officials said they had downgraded the county hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, in late 2008. Since then, Olive View has been required to transfer babies needing a ventilator for more than four hours to a hospital that could provide a higher level of care, according to California Department of Health Care Services officials.

"We took action to ensure that sick neonatal babies were not in that facility," said Norman Williams, spokesman for the department. "They were required to be transferred."

Williams said the state acted on Nov. 20, 2008, because the hospital had only one neonatologist who met state requirements and some of the doctors working in the unit were not board-certified in pediatrics.

Los Angeles County officials, informed of the state's timeline of events, expressed shock Thursday, saying they became aware of the downgrade only in January.

Even after that date, however, the hospital appears to have continued to treat babies who spent far more than four hours on a ventilator. According to family members and medical records reviewed by The Times, Olive View treated at least two infants since January who spent well over a month on a ventilator. Another newborn remained on a ventilator for five months last year, according to the family and medical records.

Read the full story: Hospital's treatment of critically ill infants scrutinized

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Rong-Gong Lin II

More coverage of Olive View hospital:

Makeshift beauty salon in hospital's ward for high-risk newborns is probed

Olive View hospital under scrutiny