Former surgeon, Dr. Bikram K. Paul, discusses the safety issues facing the go-to hospital for Congress and the White House, Medstar Washington Hospital Center.

Hospitals that fail to report or address safety problems, including those that increase the risk of infections, rarely face meaningful repercussions by state or federal officials, health care experts say. 

USA TODAY reported last week that MedStar Washington Hospital Center is under investigation by the D.C. health department for recent sewage leaks, although the problem has been going on for up to two years. The go-to hospital for members of Congress and the White House also suffers from poor quality ratings, particularly on foreign bodies left inside patients and certain infections. 

An inspection report and the hospital’s “corrective action” plan is expected soon. The last time a D.C. hospital was fined was in 2013, when Specialty Hospital of Washington had to pay a penalty of $10,000.

Two years ago, a state investigation found 13 violations of state and federal law in a Florida hospital’s handling of a major sewage leak, including failure to assure the sewage was cleaned up properly and to conduct an infection control risk assessment. Investigators reported finding live rats above ceiling tiles affected by the leak, along with other problems, according to the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota. 

Venice Regional Bayfront Health spent more than $28 million to “repair and strengthen the infrastructure, equipment and technology” since the leak, says spokesman Bob Hite. Venice also submitted a “plan of correction” that was submitted to and accepted by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which also hit the facility with what Hite called “a nominal $4,000 penalty.”

“Providing a safe environment for our patients to receive quality medical care is our top priority, as demonstrated recently by our ability to continue operations while the Venice community was battered by Hurricane Irma’s tropical storm force winds,” Hite said in an email. “We are diligent about maintenance and maintain a rigorous pest control program.”

Washington Hospital Center spokeswoman Donna Arbogast says “all pipe issues have been corrected.” The hospital has also been doing an education campaign reminding employees not to flush wipes down toilets.