Hospital to undergo more comprehensive survey

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Plains Regional Medical Center was out of compliance with Medicare’s conditions of participation during a state inspection conducted in February, a spokesperson from the federal agency that regulates Medicare and Medicaid programs said this week.

When the Department of Health visited PRMC last month, it was there to investigate a complaint, said Tony Salters, a Dallas-based spokesperson for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a U.S. Department of Health agency.

Salters said health officials found problems at the facility in addition to the complaint reported. As a result, CMS will continue its investigation, Salters said, and a more comprehensive, full survey will examine “all the conditions” at the hospital, he said.

Hospital officials have declined to say why the Health Department was inspecting PRMC, and they’ve declined to say if last month’s resignation of hospital Administrator Brian Bentley was related to the inspection. Bentley has declined numerous requests for interviews.

But PRMC officials have said repeatedly the hospital is safe.

Medicare and Medicaid patients are still being served at PRMC, said Todd Sandman, a spokesperson from PRMC’s parent company, Presbyterian Healthcare Services.

“We are not going to be out of compliance with CMS when this process is over,” Sandman said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “The whole point,” he said, “is to address the survey’s findings and make a good hospital even better.”

Neither Salters nor Sandman would say what led the hospital to be stamped out of compliance, but Sandman said CMS officials have clearly explained in what areas the hospital needs to improve in order to achieve compliance status once again.

“But,” he said, “we are not in compliance until CMS tells us we are.”

The problem areas that put the hospital out of compliance are all “easily correctable,” Interim PRMC Administrator Carl Fitch said late Thursday night, although he declined to elaborate.

Though CMS commonly receives complaints concerning hospitals, and follow-up investigations into complaints are required, it is less common for complaints to result in a full survey as it has at PRMC, Salters said.

The outcomes of full surveys vary, according to Salters. But generally the facility in question must submit a plan of corrective action to CMS within a timeline the agency sets, Salters said.

Sixty days after the plan of corrective action is received, the contents of the report and the plan are open to the public, Salters said.

If CMS does not accept the hospital’s plan of action, Salters said funding to that facility could be pulled.

The survey, Salters said, will be conducted in a “timely” manner, but its date will not be announced to the hospital.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have many conditions of participation, Salters said, each of them in place to ensure the health and safety of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

“Patient care and safety,” he said, “is our foremost goal.”

PRMC serves more than 110,000 people living within a 100-mile radius of Clovis.