Down East hospital addresses ER issues

Posted April 15, 2009, at 8:28 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — A federal survey completed Wednesday concluded that Down East Community Hospital no longer poses any “immediate jeopardy” to its patients, but issues still remain that the hospital must address.

The Machias hospital had until Wednesday to correct serious deficiencies cited during an October 2008 incident in the facility’s emergency room. The deadline for the additional corrections has been extended to June 21, according to Roseanne Pawelec, a regional spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Basically what’s happened is that [DECH] proved to the state and federal government that they have made enough changes so that the public is not in immediate harm,” Pawelec said Wednesday afternoon. “But there remain significant issues and deficiencies that the hospital has to address. They have some work to do.”

Pawelec declined to reveal the additional deficiencies cited at the hospital. She said they would be released once DECH provides an acceptable plan of correction, which is standard protocol.

CMS is a federal licensing agency that ensures hospital compliance under Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. Officials with Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services often conduct surveys on behalf of CMS, which was the case this week.

DECH President and CEO Wayne Dodwell issued a statement late Wednesday about the survey.

“We are pleased to have successfully completed the CMS validation survey and look forward to moving beyond this issue with a renewed focus on continuous quality improvement,” he said.

DECH has been under close state and federal scrutiny for more than a year, but concerns have accelerated in the last two months. In February, the state demoted DECH to a conditional license after numerous deficiencies were uncovered in the areas of patient records and quality of care.

The most recent investigation revolved around emergency room care related to an incident last year that discovered numerous failures in ER procedures at DECH.

It was the third federal survey in about 15 months that found DECH out of compliance and required drastic changes. This time, CMS also threatened to terminate the hospital’s ability to collect Medicare reimbursement.

In recent weeks, the hospital has seen considerable resources sent its way, according to Dodwell. Physicians and quality experts from Quorum Health Resources and some Maine hospitals have provided expertise in assisting DECH to retain its Medicare provider status.

“We are grateful to the many regional and national experts who have contributed to our efforts,” Dodwell said. “Their support and the generous sharing of their expertise help position DECH not only for continued participation in Medicare, but for long-term, sustained success.

“With the ongoing dedication of our employees and medical staff, we look forward to regaining the community’s confidence and continuing to provide the quality care our community deserves and expects.”

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