Patient Safety Problems Spur Millions in Penalties for Hospitals in North and South Carolina

While the new year is a time of new beginnings, dozens of hospitals in North Carolina and South Carolina are starting it off with millions in penalties from the federal government. They are among the 758 hospitals nationally that have been cited for patient safety issues, and will suffer a 1 percent decrease in Medicare reimbursements as a result. hospital2

That might not sound like much, but it will translate to millions of dollars for hospitals throughout both states. According to Kaiser Health News, about half of these hospitals were also fined last year for many of the same offenses. Problems include:

  • Hospital-acquired infections (including central line bloodstream infections and MRSA);
  • Bed sores;
  • Surgical mistakes;
  • Patient re-admissions (patients returning within a month).

The fines are part of the second round of the federal Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, which was created after research in 2013 and 2014 indicated the problem was widespread.

The idea is to use the leverage of taxpayer dollars to compel hospitals to provide top-quality care. Although some in the health care profession allege these types of incentives and penalties miss the mark – especially because some hospitals that are actually improving are nonetheless still docked – patient advocates argue stiff fines are often the only thing that capture the attention and action of hospital executives.

A major part of the problem is that complications among patients are profitable. For example, if a patient is undergoing a surgical procedure and suffers a hospital-acquired infection due to issues with a catheter, he or she is going to need to stay longer. They are going to require additional care, more medications, more tests, more specialized treatment. All of that adds up to more profits for the hospital and the staff. So in this scenario, what is the incentive to improve catheter procedures?

The issue is huge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one in every 25 hospital patients suffers a hospital acquired infection, with more than half of those occurring outside the intensive care unit and 75,000 people dying of this annually. Further, studies have revealed that operation room, “never events” – i.e., those personal injuries and hospital errors that should “never happen” because they are entirely preventable – in fact occur about 80 times a week.

In North Carolina, as reported by Kaiser Health News, the 15 hospitals found to be in violation of federal standards include:

  • Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, Charlotte
  • North Carolina Specialty Hospital, Durham
  • Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, Fayetteville
  • Vidant Medical Center, Greenville
  • Vidant Duplin Hospital, Kenansville
  • Lenoir Memorial Hospital, Kinston
  • Southeastern Regional Medical Center, Lumberton
  • Wakemed, Raleigh
  • Nash General Hospital, Rocky Mount
  • Rutherford Regional Medical Center, Rutherfordton
  • Carolinas Healthcare System Cleveland, Shelby
  • Vidant Beaufort Hospital, Washington
  • Wilmington Treatment Center, Wilmington

Of those, 11 were also cited by federal regulators in 2015 for similar violations.

In South Carolina, the 16 hospitals cited are:

  • Aiken Regional Medical Center, Aiken
  • Marlboro Park Hospital, Bennetsville
  • Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier Hospital, Charleston
  • Musc Medical Center, Charleston
  • Trident Medical Center, Charleston
  • Chester Regional Medical Center, Chester
  • Palmetto Health Baptist, Columbia
  • Palmetto Health Richland, Columbia
  • Conway Medical Center, Conway
  • Mary Black Health System, Gaffney
  • Self Regional Healthcare, Greenwood
  • Hilton Head Regional Medical Center, Hilton Head
  • Springs Memorial Hospital, Lancaster
  • GHS Oconee Memorial Hospital, Seneca
  • Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, Spartanburg
  • Tuomey Healthcare System, Sumter

Of those, eight had been previously cited in 2015 for the same or similar patient safety violations.

The hospitals considered do not include veterans hospitals, children’s hospitals and “critical access” hospitals that are deemed the sole providers in a given region.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Medicare Penalizes 758 Hospitals for Safety Incidents, Dec. 10, 2015, By Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News

More Blog Entries:

Bradner v. Pease – Standard of Care in Medical Negligence Cases, Dec. 13, 2015, Charlotte Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog

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