Despite a string of patient deaths, Brookwood Baptist Medical Center says it will continue its participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs without interruption.
However, federal officials said they could still suspend payment as of Thursday.
Federal regulators told the hospital last month that that payments from Medicare and Medicaid could end on Aug. 9. The hospital on Wednesday said it expects payments to continue as the hospital is subject to a federal survey.
But federal officials late Wednesday told Al.com they have not yet officially extended the deadline and are still “reviewing all options.”
“Surveyors from the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducted their follow up of our hospital’s action plan, and tomorrow we will provide additional information to demonstrate its effectiveness,” hospital communications manager Laura Clark said in an email to AL.com today. “The hospital will continue to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs without interruption until the survey process concludes.”
“We take patient safety very seriously, and we are committed to continuous quality improvement and to maintaining the confidence of our community.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told the hospital in July that the Medicare program would not make payments for patients admitted after Aug. 9, according to an earlier statement from the hospital. It’s the second time the hospital has received this warning in a little more than two months.
However, CMS officials late Wednesday said Brookwood could still lose Medicare funding after Aug. 9.
“This remains on ongoing immediate jeopardy. The hospital may continue to take the necessary steps to correct deficiencies prior to termination,” CMS spokesperson April Washington said in a statement to AL.com.
“CMS and the Alabama State Survey Agency continue to work together to ensure the safety of all patients in this facility,” said Washington via email. “We have the option to extend the immediate jeopardy and survey process up to 90 days. We are reviewing all options prior the Aug. 9 termination date.”
The first warning came after a patient died in the psychiatric department in April. The patient suffered a heart attack after being restrained. CMS officials said hospital staff did not follow proper procedures for physically restraining a patient.
Hospital officials submitted a plan of correction and were approved to continue providing services to Medicare and Medicaid patients in May.
However, a survey completed in mid-July discovered more problems at Brookwood, bringing another warning from CMS.
Inspectors said two patient deaths, one severe injury and trauma from falls could have been prevented by following hospital procedure. Inspectors also found hospital staff failed to properly track patients’ vital signs, putting them in danger of death or injury.
One investigator discovered that no staff members, including nurses, entered a patient’s room for 10 hours in May.
In January, a bipolar patient in a psychiatric program escaped the facility and jumped from a parking garage. The patient disappeared after she checked in for treatment, but before the first group therapy session. Records show her husband called several times to check on her and warn staff she might try to leave, according to an inspection report. According to the report, staff failed to notice the patient had escaped and never tried to track her down.
In May, a 35-year-old patient nearly died after an extreme drop in blood pressure went untreated by hospital staff. Reports show the nurse did not notify the doctor of the patient’s decreasing pressure until the patient was unresponsive.
The patient was placed on a ventilator and treated in intensive care for more than a week.
On June 10, a patient died after receiving a dose of pain medication for possible indigestion. The monitor indicated the patient’s pulse had stopped 15 minutes before a family member notified staff. The monitor technician failed to notice a decline in the patient’s heart rate before the heart stopped.
At least one other patient with diagnoses of psychosis and depression left the hospital in July and was found in the woods nearby.
Brookwood is a 645-bed, full-service hospital located in the Birmingham suburbs. It’s owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, a for-profit hospital chain.
Updated on Aug. 8 at 4:55 pm to include additional statements from federal officials.