11 Kansas hospitals penalized for rates of infections - KCTV5 News


11 Kansas hospitals penalized for rates of infections

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Eleven Kansas hospitals are among more than 700 nationwide that have been penalized for having high rates of infections or patient injuries, leading to a 1 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements since the current fiscal year began in October.

Medicare evaluated 51 Kansas hospitals, 40 of which were not penalized after scoring below 7 on a 10-point scale for hospital-acquired conditions. The hospitals won't know the exact amount of their Medicare penalty for months because it is based on payments during the federal fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, The Hutchinson News reported.

Medicare's Hospital Acquired Conditions (HACs) report cited Overland Park Regional Medical Center, Menorah Medical Center and Saint Luke's South Hospital, both in Overland Park, and the University of Kansas Hospital for having a high number of infections and injuries.

“When I did come into the emergency department, I had been sufficiently sick and had been on vacation prior to that and likely got sick while I was away,” Robert Spaniol said.

Spaniol nearly died from an infection five years ago. He spent weeks in the University of Kansas Hospital fighting for his life.

University of Kansas Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lee Norman says patients like Spaniol who seek treatment at the hospital for an infection they got somewhere else go against the hospital's records. It counts towards a so-called “hospital acquired infection” and now means monetary penalties for healthcare institutions.

"There are some problems with the measurement system and that's what I have a problem with,” Norman said.

The hospitals across the state were penalized, from suburban Kansas City to Coffeyville. Hospitals that provide specialized treatment, such as psychiatry or rehabilitation, or cater to particular patients, such as children or veterans, were exempt from the inspections. Small "critical access hospitals," mainly in rural areas, also were exempt.

A total of 724 hospitals nationwide will get a one percent reimbursement reduction from Medicare because of the high rates of infections and injuries. It's part of a growing effort under the Affordable Care Act to hold the healthcare industry accountable while driving costs down.

"The HAC's program does not fully recognize hospitals for quality improvement and actually penalizes hospitals who are often caring for the most critical and vulnerable patients," said the spokeswoman for Overland Park Regional and Menorah Medical Center Christine Hamele.

HCA Midwest Health Systems own three hospitals in the metro to make the unsavory list - Overland Park Regional, Menorah Medical in Kansas and Research Medical Center in Missouri. Hamele points out that Overland Park Regional is the only trauma center in Johnson County creating a distinctly different kind of patient base.

“While Centers for Medicare Services Hospital Compare is one of many ways to measure quality, we caution using this report as the only mechanism to monitor quality,” Hamele said.

While hospitals under Saint Luke's Health Systems avoided the list in Missouri, Saint Luke's South was one of the metro Kansas hospitals cited for high infections and injuries.

“Saint Luke's South is doing everything possible to ensure a safe environment for patients and to reduce infections to the lowest level possible. As always, patient safety is, and will continue to be, our number one priority,” said Laurel Gifford, a spokeswoman for Saint Luke's South.

One of the more common infections listed come from urinary tract catheters and IV lines. Norman says his hospital has changed the types of catheters and central lines used, but consumer awareness about using those items can also help hospitals reduce its rate of infections.

"Sometimes we'll want to remove the catheter and patients will often say, ‘no I'd rather lay in bed and not get up to go to the bathroom. Can't we leave it in one more day?'" Norman said.

Norman encourages patients to advocate for themselves too and ask questions about the medical treatments they receive.

Medicare studied the frequency of central-line blood stream infections caused by tubes used to pump fluids or medicine in to veins and frequency of infections from tubes placed in bladders between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2013; and serious complications that occurred in the hospitals, such as collapsed lungs, surgical cuts, tears and reopened wounds and broken hips, between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2013.

Hutchinson Regional's cumulative score of 7.35 prompted it to put safeguards in place since 2013, said Amelia Boyd, vice president for marketing and business development for the Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System. The hospital is participating in the Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection Reduction Collaborative, she said.

"Participating hospitals receive the tools, resources and technical assistance for implementing best practices to reduce infections," Boyd said. "Since the reporting period, we have seen significant improvement in infection rates and we continue to monitor our systems and processes to look for ways to provide the highest quality of care."

The other hospitals that were penalized are: South Central Kansas Medical Center in Arkansas City, Sumner Regional Medical Center in Wellington, Miami County Medical Center in Paola, Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas Heart Hospital in Wichita and Coffeyville Regional Medical Center.

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