Congress considers specialty hospital regulation

A group of powerful Congressional members are considering a crackdown on physician-owned specialty hospitals, partly in response to a recent Texas incident where a patient died after elective surgery. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) outlined their concerns in a recent letter, issued jointly with Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), in which they cited the death of a patient treated at privately-held West Texas Hospital as a prime example of what can go wrong. The patient, who underwent spinal disk-fusion surgery at West Texas Hospital, went into respiratory arrest, and the staff there called 911 because they couldn't help. (He later died at another hospital.)

Nationwide, the number of physician-owned specialty hospitals has grown, with physicians hoping to carve out a niche independently of acute care hospital bureaucracies. Some observers, however, are accusing such hospitals of failing to invest enough in staff and safety safeguards.

For more information on specialty hospital regulation:
- read this piece from the Houston Chronicle