A federal court in Washington has temporarily blocked HCFA's attempt to kick an Arizona hospital out of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin granted a temporary restraining order Dec. 1, one day before HCFA was going to decertify 104-bed Arrowhead Community Hospital and Medical Center in Glendale, Ariz. The order lasts for 10 days, attorneys for the hospital said.
"We believe there were significant oversights committed on behalf of (HCFA's) surveyors, and their reports were inaccurate," said Gerald Wissink, chief executive officer of Phoenix-based Baptist Hospitals and Health Systems, which owns Arrowhead.
System executives acknowledged that taking the matter to federal court was drastic, but they said they had no choice.
HCFA was set to decertify the hospital after the Arizona health department conducted inspections there in August and November on HCFA's behalf.
After the second inspection, HCFA concluded that patients were in immediate jeopardy from poor-quality care at the hospital, Wissink said.
The November inspection results are not yet public, but the August inspection identified more than a dozen serious deficiencies (See box).
In a 17-page letter sent to HCFA and Arizona health officials Dec. 1, Arrowhead's attorneys insisted that the criticisms leveled by surveyors "are unfounded and based on a number of plain factual errors and flawed, medically inaccurate assumptions." The letter concluded that the "deficiency statement . . . lacks credibility and cannot form the basis for decertification."
Wissink and Baptist attorney Beth Schermer also objected because Arrowhead was not allowed the typical 90 days after the second inspection to correct problems. Schermer said HCFA officials were not available in the days before the termination date.
A HCFA spokeswoman would not comment on the letter or the restraining order but confirmed that Arrowhead would continue to receive payments for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients.