Huntsville Memorial Hospital medical malpractice attorney/lawyer

 

Medicare penalized Huntsville Memorial Hospital, for 2017-2018, over quality of care concerns

 
December 29, 2017

As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, many Huntsville area patients have hired me to investigate medical malpractice cases involving Huntsville Memorial Hospital. Many of these clients expressed concern to me that local Huntsville lawyers were unwilling and hesitant to tackle the big local hospital.

The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Painter Law Firm are not intimidated by any hospital or healthcare provider in the State of Texas. In fact, we handle cases not only in Harris County, but statewide.

About Huntsville Memorial Hospital

Huntsville Memorial Hospital, located at 110 Memorial Hospital. Dr., Huntsville, TX 77340, in Walker County, was founded in 1927.

It is a 93-bed hospital that offers an emergency room, heart and vascular center, diagnostic imaging services (mammograms, CT scans, and MRI scans), medical clinics, an outpatient surgery center (including bariatric weight loss surgery), labor and delivery care, women’s health, wound care, and sports medicine. In 2016, it was designated as a Primary Stroke Center.

2017-2018 Medicare penalty

Medicare recently announced that it was assessing a penalty against Huntsville Memorial Hospital for fiscal year 2017-2018, because it ranked the hospital in the bottom 25% of hospitals nationwide for certain indicators that it measures. The penalty comes in the form of a 1% reduction in the Medicare reimbursement rate to the hospital.

Huntsville Memorial Hospital was penalized as part of the federal Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, which imposes financial incentives to encourage hospitals to reduce their infection rates from certain procedures, as well as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C-diff). In addition, the program looks at the rates of other largely-avoidable hospital injuries.

Other quality of care concerns

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a robust program of on-site hospital inspections for accredited hospitals. When surveyors uncover substandard care, they can issue violations to the hospital.

Since April 3, 2014, Medicare issues seven violations to Huntsville Memorial Hospital.

On February 28, 2017, there were four violations, all relating to the hospital’s failure to protect an emergency room patient’s rights in the use of restraints. The surveyor noted that a patient had been placed in soft wrist and ankle restraints, without following the hospital’s own policies and procedures requiring a written or electronic physician order for restraints that is time-limited and that contains a specific justification.

From my experience in handling various cases, I know that the use of restraints is a highly-regulated area in healthcare. Experts say that the improper use of restraints can cause more harm to the patient than good.

On November 12, 2014, Medicare issued two violations to Huntsville Memorial Hospital.

The first violation found that the hospital did not hold a doctor accountable who mismanaged care related to a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line. The patient involved was new to the hospital’s Wound Care Center and was being treated for an open sacral wound. The surveyor’s report reflects that different physicians involved with the patient’s care thought that someone else would be managing the patient’s PICC line. As a result, the patient was discharged without antibiotic therapy, despite having a drug-resistant bacterial infection.

Medicare issued a second violation to Huntsville Memorial Hospital arising from the same patient’s care. This violation was because the hospital did not follow criteria for discharge evaluation. In reviewing the medical records, the surveyor found that there was no entry at all by any discharge planer, despite the final diagnosis saying that the patient was being discharged home, needed IV access, and a follow-up appointment with the Wound Care Center. The hospital’s Director of Discharge Planning “could not explain why no entry had been documented,” but confirmed that patients of this nature normally required a discharge plan with community-based resources for follow-up and patient education.

As a Texas medical malpractice attorney, I know that the hospital and healthcare providers’ responsibility for patient safety and wellbeing does not end upon the decision to discharge the patient from the hospital. Medical and nursing experts have shared that the standard of care requires the hospital to arrange discharge planning to help ensure that the patient does not deteriorate upon going to home or to a new facility. Discharge planning includes detailed instructions that fit with the patient’s condition and may include prescriptions, equipment or supplies, and referrals to outside resources and healthcare providers. By failing to provide discharge planning, it needlessly endangers patient safety.

On April 3, 2014, Medicare cited Huntsville Memorial Hospital with one violation concerning its failure to follow grievance policies. As a former hospital administrator, I know that patient and family grievances are an important was for hospital leadership to learn about and address quality of care issues. The Medicare and Medicaid surveyor found that, on two occasions, Huntsville Memorial Hospital conducted no investigation of complaints and did not follow-up with the people making the complaints.

Most hospitals have a patient advocate to assist patients. This violation reflects that Huntsville Memorial Hospital’s patient advocate received two calls from family members of two different patients regarding care that the patients received in the hospital. The patient advocate said that her director instructed her not to include either complaint in the complaint log. Some people may consider that to be a cover-up. To me, I am concerned about how the patient advocate apparently dropped the complaints when the director improperly told her to do so.

We are here to help

If you or someone you care for has been seriously injured as a result of healthcare provided at Huntsville Memorial Hospital, call Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case.

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Robert Painter is a medical malpractice and wrongful death attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in lawsuits against hospitals, doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers. He is a former editor-in-chief of The Houston Lawyer magazine and currently serves on the editorial board of the Texas Bar Journal.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.

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