Troubled UHS hospitals get two reprieves

Southwest Healthcare System, which operates Rancho Springs Medical Center and Inland Valley Regional Medical Center in Riverside County, Calif., has gotten a reprieve on two fronts, according to a press release from parent company Universal Health Services, Inc. (NYSE: UHS).

The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services agreed to stop a termination action that was scheduled for June 1, 2010. Instead, Southwest Healthcare System can continue to receive federal reimbursements, but it must take steps to improve compliance with Medicare Conditions of Participation. The hospital must hire outside experts and retrain nearly 1,500 staff members, the Press-Enterprise reports. It also must overhaul operations based on outside consultants' recommendations. A final survey will take place sometime in the middle of 2011.

If Southwest fails that inspection, it could be forced to sell the hospitals or have its license revoked, the Press-Enterprise reports.

In a similar pact, the California Department of Public Health agreed to let Southwest Healthcare keep its license for now. The state originally planned to revoke it. The license remains in effect pending the full CMS certification survey in 2011.

Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta, Calif., and Inland Valley in Wildomar, have been cited numerous times for violations. Surveyors cited Southwest in 2007 for the lack of on-call doctors in its ERs. Other problems cited included inappropriate infection control and delayed care for patients with life-threatening conditions. Southwest Healthcare hospitals were cited more than 30 times during inspections since 2007.

To learn more:
- read the Universal Health Services press release
- here's the California Department of Public Health's settlement agreement with Southwest
- here's the Press-Enterprise story
- check out this statement from the California Department of Public Health