TACOMA, Wash—MultiCare Health System has opened new emergency departments at Tacoma General Hospital and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. The emergency departments are both housed in the 132,000-square-foot Milgard Pavilion, a $172 million construction project. The pavilion also is home to the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center, which opened on March 1. The Tacoma General emergency department has a total of 42 rooms on two floors, three intake/triage rooms and separate rooms for less sick patients. The children's hospital's emergency department has four pediatric resuscitation rooms and 17 single rooms. Another 14 rooms are exclusively for less-sick patients and those under observation. The new departments, which opened on April 15, also have expanded trauma services. MultiCare is a not-for-profit three-hospital system serving Tacoma and Puyallup, Wash.
Regionals: MultiCare Health opens new emergency departments and more news ...
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—California regulators issued a total of $550,000 in fines to nine hospitals for failing to meet licensing requirements that caused or were likely to cause patient injury or death. This is the 11th time that the California Public Health Department has issued penalties since a state law gave it the authority to do so in 2007. The fines went up in 2009. Hospitals fined $50,000 each were: Hi-Desert Medical Center, Joshua Tree; Marin General Hospital, Greenbrae; Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center, Mission Viejo; Parkview Community Hospital, Riverside; Pomerado Hospital in Poway; Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego; and Tri-City Medical, Oceanside. The Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland was fined $75,000 because this was its second penalty. Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla received two penalties totaling $125,000. Scripps Green has amassed four penalties for patient-care violations. Hospitals must submit a plan of correction and can appeal the penalties. A total of 156 penalties amounting to $4.8 million have been issued to 108 hospitals since the law went into effect. Nearly $3 million has been collected from hospitals.
MURRIETA, Calif.—Universal Health Services, King of Prussia, Pa., said it has reached an agreement with the CMS that will allow its two-hospital Southwest Healthcare System in Murrieta to continue participating in the Medicare programs. Universal also said that it has appealed the California Public Health Department's move to revoke the licenses of the two hospitals, which allows them to operate while the appeal is heard. The planned termination by the CMS was scheduled for June 1. Universal has agreed to a one-year plan to hire independent experts to develop plans to allow the hospitals to meet Medicare's conditions of participation. A year from now, the CMS will conduct a full certification survey to determine whether the hospitals substantially meet the conditions. Universal said it plans to pursue an agreement with the state public health department that is consistent with its CMS agreement, but there is no guarantee that it will be able to do so.
ONTARIO, Calif.—The state of California last week settled a lawsuit with Prime Healthcare Services, a hospital system, over billing patients the balance of the costs for emergency services. As part of the settlement, 12-hospital Prime Healthcare, Ontario, Calif., agreed to halt the practice of billing plan members the balance of services provided; not pursue collections; provide refunds with interest to patients; and audit its records for the past six years to determine whether enrollees paid the balance of the services billed for emergency care. The settlement also requires Prime Healthcare to donate $1.2 million to community clinics in the state's neediest areas. The California Managed Health Care Department, which oversees HMOs, filed a lawsuit against Prime Healthcare in 2008, after receiving complaints from patients and providers over bills for emergency services. A 2006 executive order signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger protected consumers from owing the balance of a hospital bill for services rendered in an emergency. In 2009, the California Supreme Court ruled that emergency room doctors could not directly bill patients for the balance of charges that the insurance company did not pay. Prime Healthcare said in a written statement that although it believes it would have ultimately won the case at trial, it decided to settle to avoid further costs. Prime Healthcare “looks forward to working with the department to ensure that HMOs live up to their legal obligations,” according to the statement.
SANTA FE, N.M.—The New Mexico Human Services Department said it is notifying about 9,600 members of its Medicaid fee-for-service and Medicaid Salud health plans of a data breach involving a laptop computer carrying medical claims information, including members' names and health plan identification numbers, which in some cases were those members' Social Security numbers. The department “is encouraging all members to protect themselves by placing a free fraud alert on their credit accounts,” according to a news release on the state agency's website. The department was notified of the breach on April 9 by DentaQuest, Boston, a dental health plan under contract as a provider of dental health benefits to the state's Medicaid beneficiaries. The breach stems from the theft of data on a laptop computer reportedly in the trunk of a car stolen on March 20 in Chicago, according to the state agency.
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