Joint Commission inspectors made a surprise inspection for cause of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington last week in an effort to scrutinize the hospitals discharge practices, leadership and environment of care that led to patients going missing. According to the Joint Commissions Quality Check Web site, its inspectors last visited the hospital on Sept. 23, 2005, and the facility was fully accredited. The Joint Commission said it did not include Walter Reeds troubled building 18 in its survey because it is not a site of care. And U.S. Army Secretary Francis Harvey resigned March 2 over quality-of-care issues that have come to light at 261-bed Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, and President Bush said he would form a new bipartisan commission and charge its members to conduct a thorough review of the care that Americas veterans receive when they return stateside. The same day, the U.S. Army announced that Maj. Gen. Eric R. Schoomaker will be named the commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed. The Army said it plans to name a deputy commanding general this week. Schoomaker replaces Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, who was relieved of his duties on March 1 by Harvey, and less than 24 hours after the Army had named Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley as the acting commander. In a brief statement, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that he did not ask Harvey to resign. Gates said that Undersecretary of the Army Pete Geren would serve as acting secretary until a new secretary is in place.
West Penn Allegheny Health System in Pittsburgh is poised to refinance the massive, speculative-grade debt it took on when it was formed out of the remains of the 1998 bankruptcy of the Allegheny Health Education, Research Foundation. The purpose of the transaction of approximately $700 million is to take advantage of the systems financial turnaround and current market conditions, said David Cyganowski, managing director and healthcare co-head for Citigroup, the senior manager of the deal. Officials anticipate the existing debt, which carries a 9% interest rate, will be refinanced to below 5%, he said. The deal structure is being completed, and ratings are expected soon, according to Cyganowski. The bonds will likely be priced in March or April, he said. Given the current favorable market conditions coupled with the progress the system has realized since its inception, we believe the timing of this initiative is most prudent, a West Penn Allegheny spokesman said.
Triad Hospitals, Plano, Texas, reported slightly lower profits for 2006 than in 2005, as bad-debt, supply and other operating expenses rose faster than revenue. Triad said in a securities filing that its profits for 2006 were $222.3 million, down 1.6% from 2005s profits of $226 million. Revenue rose 16.7%, to $5.54 billion. Bad-debt expense, as a percentage of revenue, increased by nearly 2 percentage points. Supply and other operating expenses increased as a percentage of revenue by roughly 0.4 percentage points and 0.9 percentage points. Triad lowered its labor costs as a percentage of revenue by nearly 0.6 percentage points. The company did not provide fourth-quarter figures or same-facility volume statistics. The earnings information came in its annual 10-K report.
HealthSouth, Birmingham, Ala., said its fourth-quarter net loss narrowed 37.3% to $71.4 million from $113.9 million in the same period a year ago, mainly because of improvements in its inpatient rehabilitation and surgery segments and a recovery amount from Richard Scrushy, the companys former chief executive officer. John Workman, executive vice president and chief financial officer at HealthSouth, said the $12.8 million payment from Scrushy in the fourth quarter satisfies the bonus repayment he owed the company. Although total revenue slipped 0.4% to $730.2 million in the fourth quarter, net operating revenue for the companys inpatient rehabilitation segment increased about 2% to $424.6 million and about 3% to $182.4 million for its surgery center segment for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2006.
Jewish Hospital & St. Marys HealthCare, Louisville, Ky., said that Timothy Jarm has resigned as senior vice president and chief executive officer of 442-bed Jewish Hospital campus in downtown Louisville, effective March 1. Jeff Polson, a spokesman for the system, declined to say why Jarm left his post of three years. Jarm began working with the former Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services in 1992 as a system vice president, Polson said. Jewish Hospital & St. Marys HealthCare is a 75-25 joint venture of JHHS and Catholic Health Initiatives, Denver, formed in 2005. In 1999, Jarm was named one of Modern Healthcares Up & Comers, an award for promising healthcare executives who are 40 years old or younger. While a national search is conducted to find Jarms replacement, Polson said executives at the downtown campus will report to Deborah Molnar, senior vice president and chief operating officer (See related brief, p. 50).
The average turnover rate among physicians employed by medical groups increased slightly to 6.7% in 2006, while turnover among the growing population of female doctors dropped by nearly 1 percentage point, according to an annual survey by Cejka Search, a St. Louis-based search firm. Turnover rates among males increased to 6.8% from 5.9% in 2005, while the percentage among women fell from 7.5% in 2005 to 6.6% last year, the survey said. The total turnover rate of 6.7% for all doctors was slightly higher than the 6.4% rate cited in the 2005 retention survey. The survey included respondents from 92 groups associated with the Alexandria, Va.-based American Medical Group Association.
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