Patient safety issues threaten hospital's Medicare funding

A Tennessee hospital has learned that patient safety cannot be overlooked. If Mercy Medical Center St. Mary's doesn't improve patient safety measures, it will lose its Medicare funding on June 5, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.

An inspection by federal regulators found hospital conditions--which were not disclosed by the News Sentinel--that put patient health and safety at risk. If those conditions don't change, the hospital can say goodbye to the federal funds.

"It boils down to the delivery of quality care in a safe environment. Those are the two main parameters," said CMS spokeswoman Lee Millman, in keeping with confidentiality laws.

The loss of Medicare funding would force seniors admitted for inpatient services at the hospital to pay costs out of pocket.

In order to keep the funds intact, the hospital must submit a correction plan for approval, and subject itself to unannounced inspections, which hospital officials say they intend to do, notes the News Sentinel.

The situation serves as a reminder to healthcare providers that any deficiencies in federal compliance can lead to termination of funds. Losing Medicare funding often proves devastating to hospitals, forcing many to cut services and jobs, or worse, shut down completely.

Although CMS rarely acts on its termination threats, last year nine hospitals were permanently cut off from Medicare, including two in Tennessee, notes the News Sentinel.

For more:
- read the Knoxville News Sentinel story