Physician Hospitals of America Responds to Congressmembersâ€™ Letter to CMS
Physician Hospitals of America (PHA), a trade association that provides support, advocacy and educational services to hospitals owned by physicians, today responded to a letter sent by U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-Montana) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and U.S. Representative Pete Stark (D-California) to Leslie Norwalk, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The letter, sent in reaction to a death after a transfer from a physician owned hospital an Abilene, Texas on Jan. 23, 2007, â€œasked officials to account for any Medicare dollars that may have gone to a physician-owned specialty hospital in West Texas during a congressionally imposed 18-month moratorium on Medicare payments to these hospitals,â€? according to the letter.
â€œWe are very concerned when a patient dies, and our thoughts go out to the family,â€? said Molly Gutierrez, executive director of PHA. â€œSafety and patient care are always the first priority in healthcare, and we take this news very seriously. However, the death of a patient is by no means an indication that physician-owned hospitals should be â€˜shut downâ€™, as Rep. Stark suggests,â€? said Gutierrez. â€œEach day thousands of patients are treated at physician-owned hospitals with very positive results. Time and again studies have shown that physician owned hospitals provide a high level of quality care and measurably lower complication and mortality rates.â€?
Patient deaths in community hospitals are a daily occurrence. Adds Gutierrez, â€œAccording to a study by the Institute of Medicine, between 44,000 and 98,000 U.S. residents die annually due to mistakes from care received in (community) hospitals.â€?
Another study by HealthGrades, a healthcare quality company, found that in years 2000, 2001 and 2002, an average of 195,000 people in the U.S. died from potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors. This study, known as the HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals study, was based on 37 million patient records in all 50 states. â€œWe believe that when physicians are directly involved in all aspects of care, patients benefit, and patient satisfaction at our membersâ€™ hospitals bears this out,â€? says Gutierrez.
Congressional members also raised concern regarding a hospital â€œCalling 911.” However, this is by no means an uncommon practice. Gutierrez notes, â€œThis is a typical written and accepted part of emergency care policy in many circumstances and for many different types of hospitals.â€?
Finally, in the letter to CMS, Representative Stark says that physician-owned hospitals â€œsuck money out of already cash-strapped community hospitals.â€? However, according to the American Hospital Association, aggregate profits at community hospitals reached an all-time high in 2005 at $28.9 billion, up from $26.3 billion in 2004. The October 20, 2006 report also reported that aggregate profit margin at the nation’s 4,956 registered community hospitals — defined as all nonfederal, short-term, general and specialty hospitals — was 5.3 percent, the highest margin in seven years. Revenue also increased to $505 billion in 2005, up from $470 billion in 2004. Says Gutierrez, â€œThe mere fact that profits at community hospitals are at an all-time high, is clear indication that community hospitals are not in peril as Rep. Stark suggests.â€?