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Hospitals Face Medicare Crackdown On Injuries

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Patient Advocates Praise Move

Patient advocates say the financial penalties are long overdue, given how little accountability there has been. Gerald Guske discovered that in 2012 when he went into Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia, for an artificial hip implant. Doctors later had to reopen the incision and wash out Guske’s implant. Guske, a retired electronic technician, was laid up for a month in a rehabilitation facility while strong antibiotics were pumped directly into a vein.

Martha Jefferson told Guske it had followed proper protocols. “Unfortunately, infection is a known risk of any surgery, and even when everything is performed correctly and conditions are ideal, they can occur,” the hospital wrote him afterward. “Infection does not necessarily indicate that something went wrong.”

Martha Jefferson Hospital said it could not discuss the case because of patient privacy laws. The hospital’s infection control specialist, Dr. Keri Hall, said infection rates have been dropping and “we are every day doing what we can to hopefully bring our rates down to zero.”

Guske said he has fully recovered, "other than taking six weeks out of my life," but he attributes the stress around his complications to a minor stroke his wife suffered. He said state regulators told him they could not take any action because the hospital followed proper procedures. The fear of a financial penalty against a hospital, Guske said, is "the only thing that’s really going to change matters."

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Fri, Jun 20 2014

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