Medicare punishes 2 Jersey Shore hospitals over patient safety
Jan. 03--Medicare will reduce payments for this year to Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood and Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel because of higher than average rates of illnesses and injuries suffered by patients.
But New Jersey hospitals are showing improvement on safety issues. Overall, 15 hospitals were penalized by the agency, the lowest in the four years that penalties have been imposed.
The penalties, part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly nicknamed Obamacare, are designed to provide financial incentive for hospitals to improve patient care. They look at hospital-acquired infections, falls, blood clots and other injuries that are considered preventable.
By law, the federal program is required to penalize the lowest-performing quarter of hospitals nationwide. That included 23 New Jersey hospitals in 2015, 21 in 2016 and 26 hospitals in 2017.
"It's gratifying to see the consistent improvement in New Jersey because we've been focused very intently on these patient safety issues," said Kerry McKean Kelly, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association. Watch the video above to see the expansion at Ocean Medical Center in Brick.
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Working with the association, hospitals have reduced adverse drug reactions by 55 percent; patient falls by 43 percent; and infections in central line catheters by 46 percent, she said. Hospital efforts in those areas over the last four years have averted more than 77,000 such complications, she said.
Because the law requires penalties for one-quarter of the nation's hospitals, gains made in the overall quality of care are not recognized -- one reason that hospitals criticize this approach.
"A hospital could be making good progress in patient safety, and still get dinged," said Kelly. In addition, hospitals treating sicker patients may have higher rates of complications, she said.
Three hospitals in the state have been penalized all four years: University Hospital in Newark, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and Capital Health Medical Center-Hopewell. Nationwide, teaching hospitals are more likely to receive penalties than other hospitals, in part because they treat more complex patients.
CentraState Medical Center in Freehold Township, which was penalized the first three years of the program, wasn't penalized this year.
Spokespeople for Bayshore and Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, formerly called Kimball Medical Center, didn't comment.
Medicare penalties are not the only source of information about hospital safety.
The Leapfrog Group, a private nonprofit to which hospitals voluntarily submit data, also rates hospital safety by letter grades. Bayshore received an A for safety. Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus received a C.
The factors considered in assessing the penalties include bedsores, falls that lead to hip fractures, sepsis, surgical-wound infection or rupture, blood clots in the lungs or deep-vein thrombosis, hemorrhages, infections in urinary catheters and central-line catheters, and infection with C. difficile, a difficult to treat intestinal bacteria, or methicillin resistant staphylococcus.
Medicare payments to the affected hospitals will be lowered retroactively from Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018.
Medicare also penalizes hospitals that have high rates of patients readmitted within 30 days of being discharged. Those penalties, announced earlier in the year, affect 95 percent of New Jersey hospitals.
"The bottom line is this," said Kelly. "Patient care is safer than ever in New Jersey hospitals, but we know there's always more work to be done."