Hospital receives citation for transfer

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ Staff Writer

A health care regulatory agency has cited Plains Regional Medical Center for failure to counsel a psychiatric patient before transferring the patient to another hospital.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that strives to improve health care for Medicare and Medicaid patients — cited PRMC for failing to complete a transfer form for the patient and failing to explain the risks, benefits and reasons for the transfer, according to a letter sent Jan. 12 from CMS to PRMC.

The inappropriate transfer was discovered in a September inspection of PRMC prompted by an unrelated complaint.

When patients are transferred to another hospital, federal law dictates a physician must explain why a transfer has been recommended, inform the patient of the risks and benefits of the transfer, and obtain patient consent for the transfer.

In response to the citations, PRMC submitted a plan of corrective action Jan. 22 to CMS, according to PRMC Administrator Hoyt Skabelund.

Skabelund said deficiencies in PRMC transfer practices will be addressed through aggressive staff training.

He said records reviewed during the September inspection revealed the hospital failed to complete forms documenting consultation of reasons, risks, and benefits of transfers on more than one occasion.

“This really was an education issue,” Skabelund said.

The citations issued as a result of the September investigation ensure the hospital address deficiencies found by CMS, or risk loss of federal funding — a worst case scenario, Tony Salters said.

The September incident is not related to CMS inspection of PRMC in early 2006. That inspection found PRMC violated 26 federal health care standards.

CMS responded to those citations with a plan of action, another CMS inspection of was conducted, and CMS has deemed PRMC compliant with its standards, according to Skabelund.

Skabelund said it is unusual for a hospital to be inspected by agencies as much as PRMC has been in the past year. At least five inspections of PRMC occurred in 2006, according to Clovis News Journal records.

He said hospital turnover rates have contributed to PRMC’s recurring documentation issues.