The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. acted fast and fixed the public hospital's two defibrillators yesterday in response to concerns raised by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Despite this, the Commonwealth Health Center's “immediate jeopardy” status remains until the corporation satisfies all concerns of Medicare officers, according to board chair Joaquin Torres.
In order to lift the status, Torres said the corporation must come up with a comprehensive action plan and it must be accepted by Medicare. As to when this will happen, Torres said the decision depends on Medicare.
Torres said that hospital administrator Karen Buettner presented to Medicare surveyors on Wednesday night a preliminary action plan to demonstrate to the visiting officials that the corporation is taking immediate action on the problem and is serious in maintaining its compliance with federal standards.
The federal agency placed the hospital on “immediate jeopardy” status on Tuesday after its team discovered that the hospital has non-working defibrillators and no backup on standby. A defibrillator is an electronic device to treat life-threatening heartbeat irregularities.
Immediate jeopardy indicates that noncompliance with one or more requirements has or is “likely to cause serious injury, harm, impairment, or death.”
CHC has 23 days to rectify the deficiency or else Medicare funding will stop flowing to the public hospital.
According to Torres, CHC called an outside contractor to repair three broken defibrillators. It was later learned that Pacific Biomedical Services Inc. only managed to fix two units yesterday as the third one needs spare parts. CHC has more than three defibrillators but many are dilapidated and could not be repaired.
The corporation stopped Pacific Biomedical's contract in February this year due to the lack of budget. Since then, the company only performs certain services for the hospital on a “per need basis” such as when a machine breaks down. Sources disclosed that the corporation has yet to fully fulfill its obligation to the company.
Biomeds usually monitors all hospital equipment, including EKG machines, cardiac monitoring machine, blood-pressure apparatus, among others. Since this was stopped, employees fear that this may lead to wrong and inaccurate diagnosis.
According to Torres, CMS had emphasized that “this [problem] is not basically about repairing [the equipment]” but to ensure its reliability and accessibility for patients.
Torres said the corporation will buy new defibrillators and funding is now being identified for this purpose. Defibrillators cost around $12,000 to $15,000 per unit.
He said that buying new defibrillators is part of the corporation's plan but this is being hindered by its limited resources. Torres pointed out that CEO Juan N. Babauta made a request to buy these equipment in May but this was not processed right away because of the need to first meet the employees' payroll every two weeks.
Each year, the public hospital receives between $8 million and $10 million in reimbursements from Medicare.