HHS: Specialty hospitals not ready for emergencies

A new report from the HHS Inspector General's being released today should send shock waves through the ranks of physician-owned specialty hospitals. The emergency capacity of specialty hospitals has been under fire for at least a year, since some nationally-publicized cases came to light where patients died in the care of physician-owned hospitals when the hospitals couldn't manage them in a crisis situation. The HHS IG's report, which looks at this issue, concludes that their capacity is dangerously limited.

Researchers, who looked at 109 physician-owned hospitals, found that only 55 percent had emergency departments--and that even among those, most had a token single ED bed. It found that less than one-third of the hospitals studied had doctors on site 24/7.

Some of the problems violate Medicare rules. For example, 22 percent didn't address how emergency cases should be handled in their written policies, a Medicare requirement. And worse, 34 percent relied on dialing 911 if patients had serious problems, something Medicare rules forbid.

Now that a report has confirmed legislators' worst fears, it's likely some legislators will move ahead with the crackdown they've been considering for several months.

To learn more about the report:
- read this piece from The Washington Post

Related Articles:
Congress considers specialty hospital regulation. Report
Physician-owned hospitals: A conflict of interests? Report
Texas specialty hospitals do lucrative business. Report
Partnership building 10 doctor-owned hospitals. Report