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Centinela Medical Center fined over ‘deficient practices’


Expectant mother dies

California regulators have fined Centinela Hospital Medical Center $75,000 after faulting the Inglewood hospital for “deficient practices” that led to a patient dying while admitted there for labor and delivery.

The California Department of Public Health found that the hospital failed to ensure the patient was properly assessed and treated to prevent blood clots, did not follow up appropriately on her complaints about leg heaviness, and failed to alert her physician when her vital signs had veered out of normal parameters, among other lapses.

The state agency did not name the patient who died as a result of those failures, but its report laid out a string of events leading to a female patient dying on Jan. 10 — the same day that a 31-year-old woman named April Valentine died at the Inglewood hospital.

The death of Valentine spurred a public outcry and calls for investigation. In California and across the country, Black women like Valentine have been at disproportionate risk of dying of pregnancy complications.

“The findings of the Department of Public Health clearly show that Centinela’s gross negligence led to the tragic death of April Valentine during her labor and delivery,” said attorney Andrew J. Marton, who is representing Aniya and her father, Nigha Robertson, who was Valentine’s boyfriend.

The $75,000 fine will not bring them justice, Marton said, “but it is a step in the right direction as we must hold Centinela accountable and ensure that such preventable tragedies never happen again.”

Centinela Hospital is part of the Prime Healthcare system, which said in a statement that it is “in continual pursuit of ensuring the highest quality of care and forwarding health equity for all patients and our community” and cited recent accolades for the Inglewood hospital.

The healthcare system did not comment directly on the fine, but Prime Healthcare’s vice president of communications and public relations, Elizabeth Nikels, said in an email, “We continue to express our deepest condolences to the family of Ms. Valentine.”

Roughly two weeks after Valentine died, the California Department of Public Health made an unannounced visit to the Inglewood hospital to investigate a complaint alleging “inadequate care” led to the death of a patient who was admitted there for labor, according to its report.

Its findings, which prompted the $75,000 penalty, echoed those of a state team that surveyed the Inglewood hospital in February to check if it was meeting specific requirements for federal programs that reimburse hospitals. That investigation found that for several patients in the Centinela labor and delivery unit, medical records did not show appropriate steps being taken to address the risk of blood clots, which are one of the most common causes of pregnancy-related death in the United States.

Valentine’s cousin Mykesha Mack said the family was grateful to see something happen in response to such failures, but “what is $75,000 compared to a life that we know we’ll never, ever get back?” Mack said she is still waiting on the results of investigations from other regulatory bodies.

“There’s still so much more work to be done,” she said.

Centinela will soon be transferring maternity services to another hospital affiliated with Prime — St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood — according to a Prime Healthcare spokesperson, who said the Inglewood hospital had seen declining demand for labor and delivery services. A public notice issued by the hospital said the October closure of the unit at Centinela would affect “17 perinatal beds, nine NICU beds, and the newborn nursery.”