Florida Hospitals Stung by Federal Penalties for Patient Injury

Hundreds of hospitals nationally and dozens in Florida – including three in Lee County – have been hammered by the federal government with penalties for failing to protect patients from harm.stethascope6

The penalties were meted out by Medicare, which is slashing subsidies to 721 hospitals nationwide for errors resulting in hospital-acquired infections. Affected hospitals are going to have their Medicare payments cut by 1 percent during the current fiscal year, which spans October 2014 through September 2015.

Of those hospitals on the list, Florida claimed 31. Many were in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, but three were in Lee County, included in the Lee Memorial Health System. Those included: Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center and Lee Memorial Hospital.

According to the report, facilities on this list have failed to do an adequate job of shielding patients from mistakes that are entirely preventable.

This appears to be the toughest crackdown yet on medical errors in our nation’s hospitals. In addition to patient infections, preventable patient injuries were also factored into the federal government’s calculations.

The move will affect an estimated 1 in every 7 hospitals. These facilities reportedly ranked highest in terms of hospital acquired infections that include bed sores, blood clotting and catheter-related issues, as well as other injuries considered avoidable.

Academic medical centers seemed to fare worse, with about half of those being affected, according to a report from Kaiser Health News.

In total, the penalties will cost these facilities about $375 million.

Our Fort Myers medical malpractice attorneys understand the types of errors encompassed here are often referred to as “never events,” because those in the medical field assert they should never happen.

Simple prevention efforts often slash these incidents dramatically. These practices include:

  • Using computers to pass along physician orders, as opposed to relying on hand-written paper files
  • Using better hygiene practices, particularly with regard to hand-washing and catheter changes;
  • Adhering to strict guidelines on checklists before, during and after surgeries

The Medicare assessment suggests that while medical facility administrators and staff are aware of these prevention techniques, they aren’t consistently practiced. There is solid research to suggest this leads directly to patient harm, which in turn results in litigation against the hospital. Not only is it in patients’ best interests for hospitals to become more strict in these practices, it’s in the hospitals’ bests interests as well.

The good news is the industry as a whole has shown marked improvement in reducing avoidable mistakes. A recent report by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the rate of medical mistakes fell by 17 percent from 2010 to 2013. But even then, that still means 1 in every 8 patients admitted to a hospital suffered some form of preventable injury or infection.

These new penalties are intended to further cut down on harm to patients, and it comes amid several other efforts.

For example, just in the last 12 months, Medicare has fined more than 2,600 hospitals for having a too-high readmission rate. This is the third year running the government has levied those kinds of fines.

Additionally, for the last eight years, Medicare has refused to reimburse hospitals for care when the patient at issue suffers avoidable complications.

The federal program technically has the power to cut out hospitals entirely from the program, but that almost never happens because that would mean the hospital would likely have to close its doors – which might limit patient access to care of any kind.

If you have been injured by a medical error, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Medicare slashes payments to hospitals with high infection, injury rates, Dec. 19, 2014, Kaiser Health News

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Florida Grants Millions to Promote Medical Tourism, Dec. 16, 2015, Fort Myers Medical Malpractice Attorney Blog