CMS threatens to ax UNC Health's Medicare funding after flagship hospital cited for serious noncompliance

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has threatened to pull Medicare funding from UNC Medical Center following a mid-June compliance survey that found multiple deficiencies at the flagship hospital warranting an “immediate jeopardy” designation, according to a warning notice obtained by The News & Observer.

UNC Medical Center fell short on four different conditions of participation relating to infection control, quality assessment, hospital governance and patient rights, the regulator wrote.

Failure to submit an acceptable plan of correction addressing the deficiencies will result in the termination of the academic medical center’s Medicare contract on July 23, CMS wrote.

UNC Health told The News & Observer the issues related to a patient suicide after discharge, physical spacing of patients and visitors in the emergency department’s waiting room and documentation of vendors’ COVID-19 vaccination status.

UNC Health also reportedly said the hospital had submitted a correction plan to CMS before July 5 and is anticipating a follow-up survey in the coming weeks. Fierce Healthcare has reached out to UNC Health for confirmation.

The medical center is among the largest in North Carolina with more than 900 beds and a partnership with UNC School of Medicine.

An immediate jeopardy designation represents the most serious noncompliance citation, representing “a situation in which entity noncompliance has placed the health and safety of recipients in its care at risk for serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment or death,” according to CMS. The citations are relatively rare and result in “the most serious sanctions” for hospitals and other surveyed facilities, according to the regulator.

But UNC Health isn’t alone in noncompliance. Elsewhere in the state, Wilson Medical Center reportedly received the designation following three patient safety incidents and has already submitted its corrective action plan to CMS. Cape Fear Valley Medical Center was also cited for a substantial deficiency earlier this year, which it corrected in May.