University Hospital - Suny Health Sciences Center Fined For Violating Resident Work Hours
Albany, December 10, 1998 – The State Health Department today announced that it has fined the University Hospital –– SUNY Health Sciences Center, in Syracuse, $16,000 for allowing physicians in residency training to work hours that far exceed the limits set by the State Health Department as a protection for patients.
To protect patients from medical errors due to sleep–deprived and overworked physicians, the New York State Hospital Code limits the working hours of physicians in hospital residency training programs to no more than 80 hours per week over a four week period and no more than 24 consecutive hours. Close supervision of medical residents by attending physicians also is mandated. Hospitals in New York State have been put on notice that full–compliance with these important quality of care standards is required and that sanctions will be imposed for violations.
The University Hospital must submit a Plan of Correction to the Department that incorporates previous corrective actions and identifies additional steps that will be taken to prevent a recurrence of the violations cited by Dec. 21, 1998.
Working hour violations identified at University Hospital by Health Department inspectors during a June 29, 1998 survey, include the following:
- 12 of 14 surgical residents, three of seven pediatric residents, and three of seven medical residents, were working in excess of 85 hours per week. These violations are repeat of problems cited in 1993 and 1996 surveys of the hospital;
- 12 of 14 surgical residents worked 29 to 42 hours straight, and five of seven pediatric residents worked from 28 to 36 hours straight, in violation of the 24–hour maximum shift rule;
- Residents "on call" during night shift hours are not generally resting due to frequent interruptions for patient care responsibilities – a repeat violation cited in the Department's 1993 survey of the hospital;
- Continuous assignments for residents that include night shift "on call" duty are not followed by a required non–working period – a repeat violation cited in the Department's 1996 survey of the hospital;
- At least eight surgical residents and five residents in medicine had no scheduled day off during a weak –– representing repeat violations pertaining to surgical residents identified in the Department's 1993 and 1996 surveys of the hospital.
Earlier this year the State Health Department issued a report, based on a survey of 12 teaching hospitals, showing widespread abuse of resident working hour limits, particularly among surgical residents in New York City. This report represents a continuation of unannounced inspections of all teaching hospitals to improve compliance with the residency regulations.