Sandhills Regional Medical Center faces termination of Medicare payments

Official: ‘Immediate jeopardy’ is most serious type of deficiency
CFO Henslee: Agency approved hospital’s Plan of Correction today

By Kevin Spradlin

Unless Sandhills Regional Medical Center officials right the ship quickly, Medicare or Medicaid patients will no longer be able to be seen at the Hamlet facility after Sept. 6.

A Sandhills Regional Medical Center photo

A Sandhills Regional Medical Center photo

A legal advertisement published Friday in the Richmond County Daily Journal served as official notice for the involuntary termination of the Medicare/Medicaid Provider Agreement between the hospital and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The notice indicated Sandhills Regional Medical Center failed in three areas — governing body, patient rights and nursing services.

“The Medicare program will not make payment to Sandhills Regional Medical Center for services to patients who are admitted for inpatient services on or after Sept. 6, 2014. For patients admitted prior to Sept. 6, 2014, payment may continue for a maximum of 30 days for services. Such payment is specifically limited to covered services through the close of business Sept. 6, 2014.”

In a statement emailed to the Post Friday evening, Maureen Henslee, chief financial officer at Sandhills Regional Medical Center said CMS “has cited our hospital related to a recent patient safety event.”

Henslee doesn’t specify if that event is connected to the arrest of Thadus Gerome Primus, who worked as a contracted janitor at the Hamlet facility and was arrested July 27 for allegedly sexually assaulting two female patients.

“We are taking this matter very seriously,” Henslee said in the statement. “Providing safe, quality care is our priority and we will take the appropriate actions to fulfill this commitment to every patient.”

A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Atlanta said privacy laws prevented discussing a particular case. The Pee Dee Post has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services. The custodian of the records was not in the office late Friday afternoon.

The CMS representative said the agreement is a contract and before such a notice is published, CMS officials declare that a portion of that contract has been violated.

“When a healthcare provider, being a hospital, nursing home, home health agency (or other) providers agree to certain stipulations in order to receive money for payment for taking care of patients (there are) conditions of participation,” the CMS rep said. One element is to ensure the “delivery of quality healthcare in a safe environment. It’s like a contract. When there is a deficiency that we hear of, there is a termination of funding.”

The CMS official said once a violation has been reported, there will be an investigation. The facility being investigated then has up to 23 days to correct the deficiency. Steps to resolve the issue(s) include developing a plan of correction and an announced revisit — unannounced, the official said, “for obvious reasons.”

The plan “has to be in place and working” upon the revisit, the CMS official said. “There is a deadline.”

Henslee said hospital “administration and nursing leadership have reviewed the survey findings and developed a robust plan to meet the standards of care.”

“This plan of correction has already been implemented and submitted to CMS for approval,” Henslee said. “We feel strongly that the actions that have been taken will address the concerns raised by CMS in a pending re-survey of the hospital prior to Sept. 6.”

Update 8:26 p.m.: Henslee again emailed the Post to note that “the submitted Plan of Correction has been reviewed and approved by CMS today.”

Henslee continued: “Among our actions included strengthening our patient safety policies and procedures. Members of our caregiving team have gone through additional training and compliance will be monitored on an ongoing basis.”

In addition, Henslee said, “leadership of the hospital — administration, medical staff and board of trustees — is engaged to monitor progress and identify opportunities for continued improvement. Staffing has been focused in some areas of the hospital to support these practices. We believe our new processes have created a markedly safer environment and we are committed to taking any necessary actions to meet and exceed the standards of care required by CMS.”

The CMS representative said there’s more at stake than patient care.

“A healthcare provider is important to the community, not only as a provider of healthcare (but) also as an employer,” the rep said. “Professionals like to keep up their professional standing. Every effort will be made to get this back into compliance.”

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