State Health Commissioner Novello Announces New Toll-Free Centralized Hospital Complaint Hotline - 1-800-804-5447

ALBANY, NY, February 1, 2006 - State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., today announced the creation of a new toll-free centralized hospital complaint hotline (1-800-804-5447) for consumers, families and advocates to file patient care complaints. The public may contact the new hotline with any concerns regarding the conditions or services provided by licensed hospitals, community health clinics and diagnostic and treatment centers statewide.

Dr. Novello said, "Our priority has always been to ensure that New Yorkers have access to quality care in all hospitals, licensed community health centers and clinics. The creation of this new centralized complaint hotline will help ensure that the public is knowledgeable of their ability and right to file a complaint with the Department regarding patient care. This commitment will serve to further strengthen the public's trust in New York's world-class health care system."

Any person who contacts the State's hotline will speak directly to a registered nurse (RN), who will then document and assess the complaint information and assign the complaint for investigation by Department inspectors. All calls will be monitored for quality assurance under this new streamlined hospital complaint intake process. The identity of callers will remain confidential as part of any State investigation into the care a patient receives in a licensed health care facility.

Investigations into any egregious allegations regarding patient care will be investigated by the Department immediately. Overall, this centralized complaint hotline will serve to further strengthen the State's ability to expedite the review and, if necessary, investigate all complaints.

Arthur Levin MPH, Director, Center for Medical Consumers said, "I applaud the department's new initiative to make it easier for patients, their families and friends, to file complaints against a licensed health care facility. And, the department's promise to expedite the investigation of egregious complaints may save lives. We urge the department to commit to doing whatever it takes to educate all New Yorkers about the new hospital complaint hotline."

This initiative will also build on New York State's commitment to ensuring the public's access to high quality health care by creating opportunities for them to become more involved in making their own health care decisions through both the State's hospital and physician profile web sites. The Department now has in place well-established toll-free centralized complaint hotlines for the public to contact regarding the services and care in nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities, adult care facilities and home health care.

Hospital surveys are outcome-based and focus on the status of the care and services provided to patients by a health care facility. Through the survey process, the Department reviews all aspects of patient care in specific cases. Facilities cited by the Department for violations in the care and services provided to patients are required to correct the violations and submit a written corrective action plan to the State for approval. The plan must demonstrate how the facility has addressed the violations.

As part of the surveillance of hospitals, the Department sends a team of trained inspectors into facilities. The surveillance teams may include registered nurses, social workers, nutritionists, and/or physicians.

In addition to posting the new toll-free centralized hospital complaint hotline on the State Health Department's web site at: www.health.ny.gov, New York's licensed hospitals, community health clinics and diagnostic and treatment centers will be required to make this information available to patients.