RALEIGH, N.C. — UNC Children's Hospital is changing the way it operates by adding more security cameras and restricting access to some patient areas after a recent incident. However, the hospital is faced with losing millions in federal funding.
Two-year-old burn patient Madison Douglas disappeared from UNC Children's Hospital last Wednesday night. Hospital security and administrators were not sure what happened to her.
More than 12 hours later, hospital officials found out her father had taken her home. Last week, they refused to admit there was a problem and that the hospital had a state-of-the-art security system.
"Parents come and go with their children all the time. They're encouraged. It's a very family-friendly environment," said Tom Smith, director of police at UNC Hospitals.
Immediately after the incident, a state agency that oversees licensure and certification for hospitals began investigating. They found pediatric patients were in immediate jeopardy and that UNC Hospitals was not in compliance with federal regulations.
"We felt there were out of compliance in a few areas a number of compliance issues," said Jeff Horton, of the state Division of Facility Services. "Patients rights was probably the most prominent area because it is protecting patients' rights. Protecting patients from harm is a major component of regulations."
Based on the state Division of Facility Services' findings, the hospital put together a remedial plan to protect patients. Gary Park, president of UNC Hospitals, said in a written statement, "We hope these new measures will give peace of mind to our patients and their families.
The hospital has until Oct. 1 to come into compliance. The state Division of Facility Services will then revisit the hospital to see if the necessary changes have been made.
It is the third time since 2000 that the state has recommended terminating UNC Hospitals' medicare and medicaide funding. The previous two times, the hospital came into compliance and never lost federal dollars.