Roger Williams Medical Center, Columbia HCA/Healthcare Corp.'s controversial takeover target in Providence, R.I., has sidestepped a HCFA investigation and potential loss of its Medicare certification by agreeing to comply with a court order to turn over peer review records to the Rhode Island health department.
The department sought the records as part of an investigation of a patient's complaint about poor-quality care at the 152-bed facility.
Roger Williams executives attributed the hospital's initial refusal to release the records to "an apparent misunderstanding" of state law.
Frances Driscoll, a Roger Williams senior vice president, said state confidentiality requirements prevented the release of the records as long as doctors' names were included.
But state health department investigators, acting as agents for HCFA in reviewing the hospital compliance with Medicare rules of participation, disputed the hospital's account.
"We've never been denied access to these kinds of records by any other hospital in the state, including this hospital," said Don Williams, associate director for health services regulation at the health department.
Contrary to Roger Williams' claims of cooperation, Williams said, the hospital never offered to provide the peer review records purged of the physician names.
After negotiations to obtain the documents failed, health department officials informed HCFA of the hospital's refusal. As a result, HCFA last month ordered a full investigation at Roger Williams to determine if it meets Medicare's conditions of participation.
The state also sought a subpoena to force the hospital to turn over the peer review records. Last week, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Richard Israel granted the subpoena but allowed the hospital to remove the doctors' names from the records at issue.
"We were complying with Rhode Island state law, and the judge agreed with us," Driscoll said.
HCFA's regional office in Boston subsequently rescinded its plans to investigate the hospital.
Columbia first proposed to acquire the hospital last June for $50 million, but the sale has been delayed by opposition from a coalition of labor unions and consumer groups and by pending legislation in the state that would subject the deal to greater public scrutiny and state legal approval.