Los Angeles County health officials recommended eliminating several key services at troubled Martin Luther King-Drew Medical Center, moves that essentially would reduce the 233-bed academic medical center to a small community hospital. Under the proposal, King-Drew would no longer offer services such as pediatrics, obstetrics and neonatology. Its trauma center, shuttered last fall, would remain closed for the foreseeable future. Instead, the hospital would expand certain outpatient services, such as those for cancer diagnosis, diabetes and high cholesterol. It would continue to train physicians as specialists but would accept fewer trainees and offer fewer programs. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider the plan Aug. 16. The proposal is the latest of an array of efforts to fix the hospital, which has lost its national accreditation and been threatened with loss of Medicare and Medicaid eligibility because of lapses in patient care.
HIPAA compliant or else: CMS
The CMS said as of Oct. 1 it will no longer process any electronic fee-for-service Medicare claim that does not meet standards set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. About 0.5% of electronic fee-for-service claims were not HIPAA-compliant as of June, including 1.45% of fee-for-service hospital claims, the CMS said. Provider claims originally were supposed to be compliant by Oct. 16, 2003, but the CMS eliminated the deadline because only 31% of Medicare claims were compliant at the time. Under a contingency plan, providers were required to make a diligent and reasonable effort to attain compliance. The contingency plan still applies to other electronic transactions, the CMS said.
N.C. hospitals to form system
WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Raleigh, N.C., and Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital, Dunn, N.C., agreed to form a not-for-profit system managed by WakeMed in Harnett County, N.C. The city of Dunn, which owns Betsy Johnson, and Harnett County are also parties to the agreement. County commissioners unanimously endorsed the memorandum of understanding last week. City officials and WakeMed are scheduled to approve the deal this week. In addition to operating Betsy Johnson, Harnett Health System will apply for state permission to build a 50-bed hospital in Lillington, N.C. The state health plan already recognizes a need for the new hospital, said Bill Atkinson, WakeMed's president and chief executive officer. Atkinson said WakeMed does not intend to take an equity stake in the new system but would underwrite the bonds needed for the new hospital. He extended an invitation to join the system to the only other hospital in Harnett County-Good Hope Hospital in Erwin. Good Hope had a deal with Triad Hospitals to build a replacement hospital in Lillington, but the state denied a certificate-of-need request, and the hospital lost an appeal.
Calif. seeks universal access
California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi unveiled his plan to provide universal access to healthcare in the state, which is caught in "a death spiral" of rising costs. The plan, contained in a report called Priced Out, said 6.6 million Californians are uninsured and health insurance premiums have climbed 60% in four years, forcing more people to become uninsured or underinsured. Garamendi suggested in the report that intermediate steps be taken now toward providing universal access to healthcare, such as improving healthcare quality, reforming the state's Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, and reducing prescription-drug costs. Garamendi, who plans to run for lieutenant governor next year, expects to hold two public hearings on the issue this year.
Duke to track risk
Duke University Health System, Durham, N.C., said it mailed letters to 3,800 patients at its Durham Regional and Duke Health Raleigh hospitals about its plans to offer long-term monitoring of the patients' conditions after they were exposed to surgical instruments accidentally rinsed in hydraulic fluid before being sterilized. The hydraulic fluid, which is similar in color and consistency to the detergent used at the hospitals, had been poured into empty detergent drums and picked up by supplier Cardinal Health, which then restocked and redelivered the drums. Duke encouraged patients to call a hot line number or authorize their physician to report any effects that may be a result of the exposure. The system will examine the information and inform patients about any signs of increased risk from the exposure, the letter said.
Exec resigns after traffic arrest
Alamance Regional Medical Center, Burlington, N.C., named John Currin Jr. interim president and chief executive officer after the hospital's top executive, Tom Ryan, resigned. Ryan resigned after he was arrested for hitting a gas pump and charged with driving while impaired, hit-and-run and careless and reckless driving by the North Carolina Highway Patrol July 23, the Associated Press reported. Ryan confirmed to Modern Healthcare that he had resigned and said, "When you've been around a while, you know what you have to do." Ryan said he was honored to have served at the hospital, which he said offers a scope of services beyond most community hospitals thanks to its proximity to physicians in the Triangle region of North Carolina. A hospital spokeswoman said Currin would retain his titles as executive vice president and chief operating officer during a search for a new CEO.
Ex-HealthSouth exec pleads
A former HealthSouth Corp. vice president allegedly involved in a scheme to bribe a Saudi Arabian official received three years' probation and a $500 fine after pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI. The government alleged that Thomas Carman and others arranged for a $1 million payment to a medical director at a Saudi Arabia-based hospital to ensure that HealthSouth won a staffing contract worth $50 million. In June, a judge sentenced former HealthSouth executive Vincent Nico to three years probation and a $250,000 fine for pleading guilty to wire fraud. A jury in May acquitted two other former HealthSouth executives of involvement in the scheme.