NYS Hospital Fined for Violating Resident Work Hours
Albany, June 18, 1998 – The State Health Department has fined New York University Medical Center $16,000 (the maximum $2,000 per violation allowed by state law) 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, State Health Commissioner Barbara A. DeBuono, M.D. announced today.
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.
NYU Medical Center had been cited previously by the Department of Health for violations of the State's resident working hour regulations.
"These rules were put in place to assure that medical residents have sufficient rest and supervision to provide safe, high quality care to hospital patients," Commissioner DeBuono said.
"We have put all hospitals on notice that full–compliance with these important quality of care standards is required and that sanctions will be imposed for violations."
NYU Hospital has cooperated with the Department of Health to implement corrective actions to ensure that violations do not occur in the future. The hospital has formed a special committee, chaired by the president of the medical board, with responsibility for maintaining compliance with the State resident working hour standards.
Working hour violations identified at NYU Hospital by Health Department inspectors on May 18, 1998, include the following:
- 10 of 18 surgical residents were working in excess of 85 hours per week.
- all four first–year residents in the Cardiovascular Surgical program were working 110–130 hours per week.
- 12 of 18 surgical residents worked 30–36 hours straight, in violation of the 24–hour maximum shift rule.
- trainees who worked until 8:00 p.m. in the evening after 36 hours straight returned at 6:00 a.m. the next morning.
- residents "on call" during night shift hours are not generally resting due to frequent interruptions for patient care responsibilities.
Last month the State Health Department issued a report, based on a survey of 12 teaching hospitals, showing widespread violations of resident working hour limits, particularly among surgical residents in New York City. The Health Department will continue with unannounced inspections of all teaching hospitals and also work with hospital associations to provide training to improve compliance with the residency regulations.