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Baldrige Award declined by Baylor Regional Medical Center
Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas, is the first organization to decline a Baldrige Award.

Regional News/South: Baylor hospital declines Baldrige Award over malpractice lawsuits, and other news

By Rachel Landen and Virgil Dickson
Posted: March 1, 2014 - 12:01 am ET

Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano (Texas) has turned down the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the wake of several medical malpractice lawsuits alleging that a former Baylor neurosurgeon operated while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It's the first time an organization has ever declined a Baldrige Award.

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology notified Baylor Plano last fall that it would receive the Baldrige Award during an April 2014 ceremony. But late last month, Baylor Plano released a statement saying that “while it is extremely proud of this honor, the hospital's leadership is making the difficult decision at this time to withdraw from the process.”

“Right now, Baylor Plano is working to address allegations being made against it by plaintiffs' attorneys in lawsuits and in the media,” hospital officials said in the statement. “So at this time, out of respect for the Baldrige Award and to not give any misleading allegations an elevated public platform, Baylor Plano is announcing this decision.”

Baylor's decision to turn down the award came a little more than a week after a former patient filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and its health system, alleging that she was injured during a 2012 surgery at Baylor Plano performed by Dr. Christopher Duntsch. According to the suit, during treatment, “concerns were raised by the operating room team that Duntsch seemed to be 'distracted and disoriented.'” The suit contends the surgeon's condition may have been due to his being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Concerns about Duntsch have led to allegations in other suits against the surgeon involving patients who allegedly were injured or who died under his care during a nine-month period that began in July 2011. In March 2012, Baylor Plano asked for Duntsch's resignation. Last December, the Texas Medical Board revoked his medical license, citing six cases in which he allegedly violated standards of care.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden

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Fla. Medicaid funds in jeopardy over state's limits on ER visits

The CMS may cut millions in federal Medicaid funds to Florida over a state practice that violates federal law.

The policy in question comes from the state's decision to reimburse hospitals for only six emergency room visits per Medicaid beneficiary each year.

The policy is inconsistent with federal Medicaid laws, which sets the bar at 12 visits a year, according to the CMS. Florida's law specifically refers to non-pregnant Medicaid beneficiaries 21 and over.

In an effort to cut the budget, Florida decided in August 2012 to reduce the number of ER visits it would cover. It sent the CMS a proposed amendment to its state Medicaid plan coverage provisions on Sept. 14, 2012. The CMS denied the amendment on Dec. 13, 2012, indicating that the limitation on outpatient services was not consistent with federal law. Despite the red light, the state has continued to enforce the six ER-visit rule, according to the CMS.

“Florida has instituted this visit limit and CMS intends to reduce a portion of federal Medicaid administrative payments, unless the state quickly submits a plan to come into compliance with Medicaid law. We hope the state will realign its Medicaid program with federal standards to avoid this penalty,” a representative from the CMS said.

The CMS has given Florida state officials 30 days from the receipt of the Feb. 20 letter to request a hearing on the cuts. This would be separate from a meeting that Florida officials and the CMS already have scheduled for September to discuss the policy, according to state officials.

If a hearing does take place, and the two parties are unable to resolve their differences, the CMS will reduce federal funding for the state's administrative Medicaid operations by 10% starting the next fiscal quarter after the hearing. The withholding percentage will increase by 5% every quarter in which the state remains out of compliance, up to a maximum withholding percentage of 100%. Federal records show that Florida receives just over $20 million annually from the federal government to cover Medicaid administrative costs.

Follow Virgil Dickson on Twitter: @MHVDickson

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