Audit Finds 9% of Lowell General Hospital’s Reports
to State Not Filed in Required Timeframe
BOSTON, MA — Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today called for improved processes and compliance related to reporting requirements of newborns with congenital drug addiction (CDA) born at Lowell General Hospital (LGH). The recommendations come in an audit of LGH released today by Bump’s office, the first in a series of audits related to this issue.
Under state law, hospital personnel engaged in examination, care, or treatment of newborn babies must immediately report to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) incidence of physical dependence on an addictive drug at birth. In addition, these mandatory reporters must also file a written report to DCF within 48 hours of that notification detailing the incident.
Bump’s audit found that for twelve of the 132 children born at LGH with CDA from January 1, 2014 through August 31, 2016, the hospital did not send required written reports to DCF within 48 hours following the hospital’s initial call to the agency to alert them to the issue. Children born with CDA are at a high risk of receiving improper treatment and care, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The audit noted that the risk of improper care is greater when incidents are not properly reported.
Additionally, the audit found deficiencies in recordkeeping of incidents of children born with CDA. The audit notes that LGH had not established adequate oversight to ensure reports were properly filed. The hospital indicated it believes the process could be improved if DCF established an electronic portal to submit these reports.
“As a state, we have a responsibility to ensure vulnerable newborns are protected,” Bump said. “Getting complete information to DCF in the 48-hour window prescribed under law is essential. Failing to report all essential information can result in delays to long-term treatment plans for both the mother and the newborn. Lowell General Hospital and DCF must work together to ensure these newborns get the long-term care they need.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), infants born with CDA are at risk of a variety of medical conditions and developmental disabilities, as well as abuse and neglect.
Lowell General Hospital was founded in 1891, and provides medical services at two main facilities in Lowell, and a variety of other centers throughout the Merrimack Valley. LGH operates 26 maternity beds and 28 bassinets, and oversaw 6,227 live births during the audit period.
The audit was conducted as part of Bump’s effort to improve coordination and collaboration in the state’s child-welfare programs.