Ottumwa (Iowa) Regional Medical Center is scheduled to lose Medicare eligibility Aug. 12 after a follow-up inspection by the state found continued problems with the hospital's care of psychiatric patients. Lynn Olson, the hospital's president and chief executive officer, said he hoped to work with regulators to resolve their concerns rather than appeal the CMS' decision before an administrative law judge. The process of terminating a hospital from Medicare is long and rarely completed. Hospitals almost always manage to satisfy regulators that problems have been appropriately addressed before the deadline. In Ottumwa Regional's case, the CMS would have to authorize another state inspection before Aug. 12 and the hospital would have to be found in substantial compliance with regulations to retain its Medicare eligibility, a state health department official said.
The CMS issued a notice of termination to Ottumwa Regional May 11 after an inspection found that hospital psychiatrists refused transfer patients in violation of federal law. A follow-up inspection July 13 found that the hospital inappropriately discharged a suicidal patient. Olson said he felt the patient had received appropriate care and was surprised by the inspection's finding. He said the 64-bed hospital, like other rural facilities, has had trouble recruiting psychiatrists. While the hospital no longer refuses to accept transfer patients, it must sometimes close its inpatient psychiatric unit because of a lack of psychiatrists, as it did the weekend in question, Olson said. -- by Melanie Evans