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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

After Citation, Newport Hospital Corrects Drug Storage Problem

Robin Smith
Caledonian Record
North Country Hospital in Newport.

North Country Hospital in Newport was cited by the Centers for Medicaid Services for improperly refrigerating drugs and other biological solutions.

The hospital said it quickly corrected the problem.

According to the CMS report, an inspection in late September showed that North Country Hospital was storing some drugs and other biological materials needed for surgery in a refrigerator that was not  cold enough to meet federal standards. The report read, in part “the thermometer in a refrigerator where medications, irrigation solutions,  and orthopedic cements are stored and utilized during surgical procedures by anesthesia was observed reaching a temperature of 50 degrees Farenheit.” CMS said the acceptable range for medications is between 36 and 46 degrees. 

Karen Kendrick,  the hospital’s Interim Vice President for Patient Services, said inspections like this are important checks on hospital quality.

“It was an important thing but it was an easily correctable thing,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick said the refrigerator at issue was near the operating room so that its contents could be accessed quickly. But it was not connected to the hospital’s central refrigeration system, which has an automatic temperature sensor and alarm. She said the hospital discarded the improperly stored drugs and bought a new refrigerator, and its temperature  is now automatically monitored.

“We have submitted our plan of correction to the state which was accepted as written and all of those corrections have already been put into place,” she said.

Kendrick said CMS did a thorough inspection of North Country Hospital, and this was the only problem they cited.  

North Country is one of eight small rural hospitals in Vermont designated as Critical Access healthcare facilities. That means they are reimbursed for the full cost –not just a fraction--of providing Medicare services. But to retain that status, they must pass inspections like the one that turned up the refrigeration issue at North Country, and they must take immediate steps to correct any problems related to patient safety.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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