SAN FRANCISCO-A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed federal claims brought against Sutter Health, Sacramento, Calif., by a consortium of law firms led by Oxford, Miss.-based attorney Richard Scruggs. The judge said the plaintiffs failed to prove that the hospitals' tax-exempt status implies a contractual obligation to charge patients at affordable rates for care. The judge said, however, that claims could be filed again in state court. The lawsuit, one of many similar suits filed against hospitals around the country, alleged that Sutter violated its charitable standing, charged uninsured patients too much for care, and has been too aggressive in trying to collect payments.
JUNEAU, Alaska-Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services said last week that it would not rule on any certificate-of-need applications until it approves new standards and regulations for the program, an effort likely to be completed by late June 2005. The state is updating its regulations to include residential psychiatric treatment centers, which were brought into the CON program under new legislation this year. Alaska health officials expect an influx of new residential treatment centers as the state moves to treat more mental health patients in-state. Alaska's Medicaid program spent more than $40 million in fiscal 2003 for minors in residential treatment, most of it to send hundreds of children and teenagers to centers outside the state.
LOS ANGELES-Tenet Healthcare Corp., Santa Barbara, Calif., last week completed its sale of 225-bed Midway Hospital Medical Center to Physicians of Midway for about $12 million. Physicians of Midway is a for-profit company newly formed by doctors with long-standing ties to the hospital, which Tenet acquired in 1997 as part of its acquisition of OrNda HealthCorp. Midway is the 11th hospital Tenet has divested since January, when it announced plans to shed 27 hospitals. Tenet has agreements to sell an additional 10 hospitals and said it is in ongoing discussions with potential buyers for the six other hospitals. Tenet will have 69 hospitals when its divestiture program is completed.
SEATTLE-Virginia Mason Medical Center asserted its commitment to eliminating medical errors in a statement on its Web site late last month after a patient died of complications from a "tragic and preventable medical error," said Robert Caplan, medical director of quality at the 270-bed hospital. According to the Associated Press, a technician mistakenly injected a 69-year-old woman with a toxic skin-cleaning antiseptic, rather than a harmless dye, during an operation last month. Caplan said both fluids were clear. The hospital has replaced the liquid cleanser with an antiseptic-infused swab. "We have offered our heartfelt apologizes to the family of the patient," the hospital said in the statement on its Web site. "But perhaps the only way we can make our apology real is to do everything we can to prevent medical errors in our system. Those efforts start with admitting that we make errors-as in this case, owning up to errors, learning from them and fixing the systems that allow them to happen."