The flagship hospital of Denver system HealthOne was given 60 days last week to correct several quality problems or lose its accreditation for Medicare and Medicaid.
HCFA agents will visit 558-bed Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center within 45 days to evaluate its progress, said Mary Kay Smith, administrator of the HCFA regional office in Denver.
At that time, the agency will investigate complaints it continues to receive about P/SL, Smith said. It plans to make a decision on the hospital's accreditation by Sept. 27.
A threat to terminate Medicare and Medicaid accreditation is rare. In fact, Smith said her staff can't remember previously beginning such proceedings in their seven-state region.
In an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the review, the HealthOne board last week voted to make addressing HCFA's concerns its top priority. Medicare and Medicaid patients account for about 55% of annual revenues at P/SL, or more than $200 million, said Brad Bawmann, a HealthOne spokesman.
P/SL is the largest and most prominent of the six hospitals HealthOne operates.
"We are going to do everything in our power to correct the deficiencies cited," Bawmann said.
Last week, HCFA accepted the P/SL plan of correction. In a June review, the agency identified deficiencies in four areas: governance, quality assurance, nursing services and radiology. The review was prompted by a series of unusual deaths and accidents (May 29, p. 14), such as the January death of a man given the wrong type of blood.
The agency found several instances in which P/SL personnel administered the wrong nutrient or medication to newborns. Among other problems, it also identified violations of fire codes and inadequate sanitation of operating rooms and food preparation areas.
P/SL said it will run educational programs for its workers, including sessions on administering medications and preventing food-borne illnesses. The hospital also hired electricians to upgrade emergency lighting systems and retained architects to propose solutions to other facility shortcomings.
The hospital plans to centralize its quality assurance programs and increase their accountability to the HealthOne board, Bawmann said. It will fill two vacant quality management positions and hire three additional patient-care directors, a nursing quality assurance coordinator and a risk-management coordinator, he said.
Should P/SL satisfy HCFA that it's made significant progress, the hospital will remain on review through March 1996, Smith said.