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4 big hospitals face penalties for infection rates

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and Anchorage's Alaska Native Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital and Providence Alaska Medical Center are in the lowest performing 25 percent

Posted: June 29, 2014 - 12:09am

ANCHORAGE — A federal program aimed at improving safety at the nation’s hospitals could mean financial penalties for Alaska’s four largest hospitals.

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and Anchorage’s Alaska Native Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital and Providence Alaska Medical Center are in the lowest-performing 25 percent of hospitals for rates of infections and complications during in-patient stays, according to preliminary data analyzed by Kaiser Health News.

The Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, created by the Affordable Care Act, calls for Medicare payment penalties for hospitals in the bottom quarter of rankings. If they retain their low ranking, the Alaska hospitals face a loss of 1 percent of every payment for a year beginning Oct. 1, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Providence Alaska Medical Center could lose $500,000 to $700,000, said its chief executive, Dr. Richard Mandsager.

“Our budget is bigger than any other hospital in the state. So do I think we can handle it? Yes,” Mandsager said. “Is it big enough to get everyone’s attention financially? Absolutely.”

The quality measurements look at patient problems that could be avoided, from falls to bloodstream infections for patients with catheters.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services identified the Alaska hospitals falling into the lowest 25 percent through data from July 2012 to June 2013. Final numbers, which will cover all of 2013, are expected by fall.

Providence in 2012 reported 17 central line-associated bloodstream infections in intensive care units. The hospital reviewed the fundamentals of inserting the tube and ensuring cleanliness, Mandsager said. The number fell to six last year.

“It wasn’t serendipitous that we had a high number one year and a lower number the next year,” he said.

Julie Taylor, chief executive officer of Alaska Regional Hospital, said the hospital between 2012 and 2013 had seven patients with blood clots and three with catheter-associated urinary tract infections. One patient fell, and six experienced bacteria that can cause diarrhea and intestinal infections.

“Anything over one is a problem,” Taylor said. “The message is that improvements are being made.”

Alaska Regional expects to lose about $300,000 in Medicare payments, she said.

Alaska Native Medical Center and Fairbanks Memorial received the poorest scores. The causes are being analyzed, said Clover Tiffany, director of communications at the Fairbanks hospital, but the problems could cost the hospital up to $400,000.

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