Long-Term Care Hospitals Face Scrutiny

The Senate Finance Committee is looking into <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/medical_malpractice">patient safety and quality of care in long-term care hospitals. According to a press release issued today, the investigation was prompted by allegations made in a New York Times report published last month.

According to The New York Times, long-term care hospitals treat 200,000 seriously ill patients a year nationwide, but rarely have full-time physicians on staff. More than 400 such facilities have opened in the past 25 years, driven by Medicare rules that offer high payments to hospitals that treat patients for an average of 25 days or more.

Long-term care hospitals are smaller than a typical hospital, averaging about 60 beds, and do not have emergency rooms. Patients are usually transferred from these facilities when they need surgeries, or suffer from a medical emergency, the Times said.

Concerns about the quality of care and patient safety in long-term care hospitals focus on those that are operated for a profit. The Senate Finance Committee is focusing on Select Medical Corporation, which operates 89 long-term hospitals, more than any other company.

According to The New York Times, In 2007 and 2008, Select’s hospitals were cited at a rate four times that of regular hospitals for serious violations of Medicare rule. Other long-term care hospitals were cited at a rate about twice that of regular hospitals.

According to the Senate Finance Committee’s press release, the chairs of the committee, Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Mont.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (D-Iowa), have sent letters to the Government Accountability Office, asking for an investigation of various issues related to oversight of long-term care hospitals.

In a separate letter to Select, the senators write that the New York Times’ report suggests that the company has a “corporate culture of putting profits before patients. The letter seeks, among other things, disclosure of its discharge policies, as well as those covering patient monitoring, emergency situations and staffing, including physician involvement at its hospitals and staff turnover.

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