Feds: Parkland conditions a 'threat' to patients


DALLAS (AP) — The federal government said after an inspection at Parkland Memorial Hospital found conditions that were a "serious threat" to patient safety, the public hospital will not be able to participate in the Medicare program without coming up with correction plans.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a letter sent to Parkland Tuesday that if it doesn't provide acceptable correction plans by Aug. 20 and complete those plans by Aug. 24, the Dallas County hospital will no longer be part of the Medicare program as of Sept. 2.

"It is rare for the government to take such action," CMS spokesman Bob Moos said Wednesday. "Two Parkland violations relating to infection control and emergency care issues are so serious that they triggered 'immediate jeopardy' status. That is the most severe finding we can have in a hospital, and it requires immediate attention."

He added that each year, only two or three hospitals among more than 400 statewide face such measures.

Parkland officials say they take the allegations seriously and will do what it takes to make sure their Medicare program is not revoked.

"The results are a serious disappointment to Parkland," Dr. John Jay Shannon, Parkland's executive vice president and chief medical officer, told The Associated Press. "We were not anticipating those results and we take them very seriously."

The action comes after a two-week inspection of the hospital last month. The inspection was triggered by the death of a patient in February in the psychiatric emergency room.

The Dallas Morning News has reported that according to a CMS report on the death of George Cornell, the 49-year-old who suffered from schizophrenia and heart problems was restrained before his death without close monitoring by a nurse and without effective training of the technicians who subdued him.

Moos said that results from that investigation showed that a "full survey of the hospital was warranted." He said the specific findings from the hospital inspection won't be publicly released until Parkland has submitted its plans of correction.

Dr. Ron Anderson, Parkland's president and chief executive officer, said that the issue regarding emergency care was one they never would have knowingly violated. He said they were cited for their practice of moving patients with less serious symptoms to their urgent care center upstairs to be screened there.

"They wanted the patients to be screened in the ER, not upstairs," he said.

Shannon said examples violations of infection prevention included staff touching a patient and then touching a surface that other people would come into contact with.

"Part of this is reinforcing the policies that we have," Shannon said.

CMS notes in the letter that since Medicare participation requirements are much the same as those for Medicaid, they will be notifying the state Medicaid officials of the action.

Anderson said that 40 percent of Parkland's funding comes from taxpayers, 16 percent from Medicare and 32 percent from Medicaid.

"Failure to accomplish these goals would result in us losing half of our revenue," Anderson said.

Parkland, a regional center for burns and trauma, is also the main teaching hospital for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.