While more than half of all physician-owned specialty hospitals have emergency departments, many are not well-equipped to handle emergencies, according to a report from the HHS inspector generals office that reviewed staffing schedules and emergency policies for 109 such facilities.
According to the report, 55% of physician-owned specialty hospitals have an emergency department, but most of these departments have only one bed; only 28% of these facilities have a physician onsite 24 hours a day, seven days a week; only 45% of hospitals with emergency departments have physicians onsite at all times; and, for 66% of the hospitals, dialing 911 is part of the facility's medical-emergency response procedure.
The office recommended that the CMS take action to ensure that hospitals have the capability to provide for the assessment and initial treatment of emergencies. The CMS issued a response agreeing with the recommendation and noted that it had already issued a memorandum on April 26, 2007, stating that every hospital that participates in Medicare, regardless of whether it operates an emergency department, must have basic capacities to address medical emergencies that arise within the hospital.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who requested the report along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), issued a statement saying specialty hospitals need to do a better job fulfilling the public's expectations: "It's unbelievable that a facility that calls itself a 'hospital' would, at times, not even have a doctor on call or nurse on duty." -- by Andis Robeznieks
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