Doctors blame CHS debt for poor satisfaction scores, high prices at facilities

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Doctors at two of Community Health Systems' key facilities say the organization's debts impact care quality and patient costs.

Community Health Systems (CHS) has faced financial woes since it snapped up hospitals across the country, and doctors at two of its most profitable facilities say those debts have had a severe impact on the care they provide.

A group of 300 physicians at Lutheran Health Network attempted to buyout the system from CHS in the face of what they say is severe neglect from the system, and doctors at the 167-bed Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West claim that CHS is overcharging patients to help pay off its debts, according to an article from Bloomberg.

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CHS is one of the nation’s leading operators of general acute care hospitals. Its affiliates own, operate or lease 146 hospitals in 21 states with approximately 24,000 licensed beds, according to its website. It recently made efforts to sell off some of the smaller hospitals that it has acquired to pay off its debts. In 2015, it faced steep stock losses tied to patient value, too. The system faces about $15 billion in debts altogether, Bloomberg reports.

RELATED: CHS to sell two Washington hospitals to reduce debt

“I understand that they have billions in debt and may need to take money from this chain to service it,” William Pond, M.D., an anesthesiologist at Lutheran and president of the county health department’s executive board, told the publication. “But it’s very disappointing to see the course that CHS is taking and the devastating effect they’re having on our community.”

Patient experience scores at the 396-bed Lutheran Hospital of Indiana are at two stars, compared to four stars at Parkview Regional Medical Center across town, according to Hospital Compare data. Financial stinginess has forced docs to reschedule surgical procedures at Parkview facilities, doctors told Bloomberg. A CHS spokeswoman said the system is planning $500 million in capital projects to spruce up the facility in response to the concerns.

RELATED: A look back at hospital mergers and acquisitions in 2016

Complaints in Key West reached their peak last year when politicians tried to cancel CHS’ lease on Lower Keys, according to the article. Key West patients have no other choices for care on the Keys themselves, and they’re paying notably more than patients at CHS' other Florida hospitals, as Lower Keys reported an average per-patient revenue of more than $13,000, compared to more than $8,000 in other CHS Florida hospitals.

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