- Published on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 00:43
- Written by By Tammy Doty - Reporter
- Hits: 1616
AT least one survey certificate and enforcement branch employee from the U.S. Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Region IX was confirmed on-site yesterday at the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.The surprise visit quickly circulated through the information grapevine in the hospital early yesterday afternoon while this reporter personally met one inspector who agreed to confirm his agency and region.
When asked how long the site inspection would last the Region IX employee replied, “Not sure,” although staff in various departments had heard the CMS visitors would conduct a thorough examination to last through the week.
Just three weeks ago CMS Region IX program employees spoke with Variety via a telephone call to respond to enquiries regarding CHC’s certification status.
The two program officials declined to speak specifically about CHC’s certification status or under what circumstances the corporation would be de-certified.
However, program staffers did acknowledge they were watching closely the challenges facing the NMI’s lone hospital.
“We are very aware of the issues facing CHC and are very concerned and monitoring events.”
The CMS employees also acknowledged that CHC had been out of compliance with a variety of issues for several years even though the program usually requires facilities to rectify problems within 90 days.
CMS explained that Saipan’s geographical distance from the U.S. mainland presented a unique challenge for program staff to re-visit CHC within the 90-day window after a certification survey and is an extenuating factor in the corporation not being held immediately accountable for rectifying compliance issues as expected from most mainland facilities.
“Very rural hospitals face special internal challenges as well as being a challenge for CMS visits,” explained the Region IX administrators.
When asked what the community should be told about the current state of CHC’s federal CMS certification status in view of the fact that no specifics would be discussed by federal officials, the Region IX staffers reiterated their attention.
“We take this scenario very seriously.”
CHC should also sit up and take notice at the inspection considering CMS remits payments to the corporation in excess of $10 million a year.
CMS’ last visit was in February when a two-person team carried out the audit inspection.
This week’s unscheduled visit is not a complete surprise to hospital staff.
“Employees’ chatter the last couple of weeks has included the question, ‘Will CMS visit us this month as they did last September?’” stated one CHC employee after hearing the federal inspector was on-site.
“That question’s been answered…the next question is ‘What they will find?’ ”
In that vein, nervousness was palpable at the hospital as nurses, physicians and other staff carried out their work in the “D” section that included the intensive care unit as the CMS surveyor carried out the area’s inspection.
The head of hospital security was called in by CHC’s administration to keep a continual eye on this reporter, which also heightened the aura of unease in the vicinity.
Two employees who spoke on anonymity shook their heads in disbelief at unusual looping security presence.
“It’s a public hospital using taxpayer funds and the media is the only way to let the community know what’s going on.”
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