Three Savannah hospitals facing federal penalties

Three Savannah hospitals facing federal penalties

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Three Savannah hospitals are getting slammed with federal penalties: Memorial Health, St. Joseph's Hospital, and Candler Hospital.

It's for being in the bottom 25 percent of hospitals in terms of hospital-acquired conditions. This falls under a 2014 Affordable Care Act mandate. As a result, these hospitals will be hit with a 1 percent reduction in Medicare payments.

Memorial Health and St. Joseph's/Candler say this isn't a simple situation because they are not being graded on how well they do but rather how well they do in relation to all other hospitals, which they say is not comparing apples to apples.

These three hospitals take the sickest of the sick, not just in Savannah but in our region. So, the medical conditions of their patients are often far more complicated than what other hospitals can handle.

Also, they say many transferred patients have the very conditions they are being penalized for, before ever being admitted to their facilities.

While they don't want to lose the funding they say their top priority is always the patient's well-being.

Memorial Health issued the following response:

"While we support the idea of quality improvement programs, we believe the Medicare penalty programs hit safety net and teaching
hospitals harder (than other hospitals) due to the severity of the patients. With the region's only Level 1 trauma center, Level III neonatal intensive care, and several critical care units, Memorial Health cares for many of the sickest and most compromised patients in southeast Georgia; these patients often have longer hospital stays and are more susceptible to infections. Also, many patients are transferred to Memorial after being treated at other hospitals in our region because they need the higher level of care we provide. Our primary goal as a healthcare organization is to provide safe, reliable care to our patients, and we will continue to seek opportunities to improve our quality of care." -Ramon Meguiar, M.D. Chief Medical Officer.

St. Joseph's/Candler also issued the following statement in response:

"Like the federal government, our goal is to continually improve patient outcomes.  But we have found that comparing hospitals is not always apples to apples.  For example, the health systems in Savannah are all tertiary care, regional referral centers.  We receive the sickest of patients from the community, such as referrals from smaller hospitals, nursing homes, hospice and our emergency departments. We have learned that many of our patients already have the conditions we are being penalized for prior to being admitted to St. Joseph's/Candler or that they are transferred to us because they are too sick to be treated anywhere else.  As a result, we will naturally have more complicated patient outcomes. This is the same with other large, respected hospitals in the state. So what we have done is become more diligent on documentation to ensure the most accurate data is reported. We are also continually improving our treatment protocols to increase patient safety while patients are in the hospital and get them transferred back to their community."

To see how other hospitals performed in Georgia, South Carolina, and across the country, click here.

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