Universal to buy Puerto Rico system. Universal Health Services, King of Prussia, Pa., signed a definitive agreement last week to buy all the stock of privately owned Hospital San Pablo of Puerto Rico for undisclosed terms. The deal, subject to various regulatory and governmental approvals, is expected to close in early February. The Puerto Rico hospital company, which owns two hospitals and plans to acquire a third, has more than $100 million in annual revenues.
More `dumping' investigations needed, group says. HCFA investigated 264 hospitals for illegal "dumping" of emergency patients for economic reasons from April 1995 to September 1996, but it fined only 26 hospitals and eight doctors, according to a report released last week by consumer group Citizen Action. The group said many dumping cases go unreported, and it called on HCFA to increase investigations and provider fines. The 264 dumping cases cited by Citizen Action represented a minuscule percentage of the more than 125 million emergency room visits to hospitals during that period.
HHS eyes hospitals' home-care referrals. In the last quarter of 1995, Medicare home health patients discharged from hospitals that own home-care agencies received care from a hospital-owned agency 62% of the time, according to a report released last week by HHS' inspector general's office. The findings of the report, which MODERN HEALTHCARE disclosed in September, suggest hospitals may be inappropriately steering Medicare beneficiaries to their own home-care services rather than giving patients a choice of providers (Sept. 1, p. 2). The report said HCFA needs to analyze home-care referral patterns and review the records of hospitals that are maximizing their Medicare reimbursement in that way. It said hospitals' ownership of nursing homes does not appear to influence their skilled-nursing referrals.
Sun adds 18 skilled-nursing facilities. Albuquerque-based Sun Healthcare Group has acquired 18 skilled-nursing facilities from Health Care Capital of Atlanta. The deal, valued at nearly $28 million, became effective Dec. 1. Sun now operates 319 long-term-care facilities. It had 1996 revenues of $1.3 billion.
Clinton urges new Medicare drug law. President Clinton is renewing his call for legislation requiring Medicare to pay the same price for prescription drugs that physicians and drug suppliers pay. Clinton used his weekly radio address Dec. 13 to sell the legislation, which he has proposed in past budget plans. He said his legislation will save $700 million over five years. Clinton made his pitch less than one week after HHS' inspector general's office released a report that said Medicare overpaid $447 million for prescription drugs last year (Dec. 15, p. 17).
Distributors in $1.3 billion deal. Physician Sales & Service, a distributor of medical products to doctors, has agreed to buy Gulf South Medical Supply in a stock deal worth $545 million. The combination of PS&S, based in Jacksonville, Fla., and Gulf South, a Jackson, Miss.-based distributor of medical supplies to alternate-care sites, is subject to regulatory clearance and shareholder approval. It's expected to be completed in the first half of 1998. The new company would have $1.3 billion in annual revenues.
Quality of care declining, SEIU survey says. Half of healthcare workers think the quality of patient care at their institutions is declining, according to a poll released last week by the Service Employees International Union. The workers said understaffing is the main culprit. A quarter of the 1,232 respondents said they were afraid to speak up about problems at work. Polled were registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and occupational and physical therapists. A breakdown of unionized and nonunionized survey respondents was unavailable. The Washington-based SEIU says data should be collected on staffing and patient outcomes, and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations should solicit worker advice during regular accreditation surveys of institutional healthcare providers.