July 21, 2019
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Feds say problems that threatened Lewiston hospital funding have been fixed

Courtesy of Central Maine Healthcare
Courtesy of Central Maine Healthcare
The emergency room and campus of Central Maine Medical Center. The Lewiston hospital is part of the Central Maine Healthcare system.

Central Maine Medical Center, which had been at risk of losing Medicare and Medicaid funding, announced Thursday that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now says the hospital complies with safety and quality requirements.

The Lewiston-based hospital received letters from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in February and April, warning it to comply with standard procedures and protocols for patient care or face the possibility of losing federal reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid. The federal agency now says those reimbursements are not at risk.

The hospital was given until June 30 to submit a correction plan. That was approved by the state last month, the hospital said.

The federal agency, in a letter to the hospital dated June 13, said it revisited the hospital on June 6 and 7 and then found the hospital to be in compliance with requirements.

Hospital President Dr. David Tupponce said earlier that the hospital, which is part of Central Maine HealthCare, gets a substantial amount of revenue from Medicare.

Dr. John Alexander, the hospital’s chief quality officer, said some of the process improvements focused on methods for patient evaluation and recordkeeping in the emergency department, and included more training for staff.

“We believe there is always room for improvement, and we see this as part of our continuous improvement and evolution,” he said. “We will keep raising the bar.”

On May 3, the hospital’s regulatory compliance coordinator, Jennifer Girardin, sent the federal agency a detailed description of the plan to correct the deficiencies. The plan included work with The Greeley Co., a consulting firm on Medicare compliance based in Danvers, Massachusetts.

The federal agency, which had received patient complaints and conducted surprise inspections, found problems in the hospital’s emergency department. About 43,000 patients use Central Maine Medical Center’s emergency department each year.

In correspondence with the hospital, the agency detailed problems with how one patient with a spinal fracture was handled. That patient lost motor function after being propped up in bed due to poor staff communications between a doctor and nurse. Another patient left the emergency department after the severity of a heart problem was not identified quickly.

The federal agency had warned the hospital that it could lose Medicare and Medicaid payments if it did not correct the issues by June 30 and that it needs to show it can sustain the improvements.

The agency sent letters to the hospital with detailed descriptions of the problems.

Tupponce said earlier that the agency focuses on whether the hospital followed policies and protocols, and with how it can comply and improve its processes.

He said that such warnings are not unusual for hospitals, and that the hospital and agency work together to address problems.

Tupponce said the hospital has gone through a number of changes in the past two years to improve quality, and that doctors and other staff have supported the organization.

The hospital’s parent, Central Maine HealthCare, had been losing money before its new president, Jeff Brickman, took over 2 ½ years ago. Brickman streamlined operations and brought in an electronic health care system, but staff who did not like the changes left en masse.

The original deadline for the corrections was May 4, but the federal agency extended that until June 30.

 



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