California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

California Hospital News Roundup for the Week of May 4, 2012

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has become one of three U.S. hospitals to implant a device that stimulates the respiratory muscle in the chest and draws air into the lungs of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to a release from Cedars-Sinai.

The procedure -- recently approved by FDA -- has been performed on 13 patients at Cedars-Sinai (Cedars-Sinai release, 5/2).

Desert Valley Hospital, Victorville

State hospital regulators have found repeat violations associated with stent placement procedures at Desert Valley Hospital, California Watch reports.

At the time of the procedures, Desert Valley had a limited cardiac license, meaning it was permitted to place stents only in emergencies. However, regulators have found that the hospital performed a stent treatment that it should not have, in addition to performing the treatments without required specialized equipment or trained staff.

However, the state Department of Public Health -- which documented the problems -- granted Desert Valley a full cardiac license for its new heart center in March. Health department officials said they conducted two thorough inspections and found no deficiencies.

Edward Barrera -- spokesperson for Prime Healthcare Services, which owns Desert Valley Hospital -- said the hospital "has followed and continues to follow all applicable laws and regulations," noting that "there are unexpected complications with coronary interventions at all hospitals that no one can predict or prevent" (Jewett, California Watch, 5/2).

Sierra Vista Hospital, Sacramento

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner announced that Psychiatric Solutions and Universal Health Services have agreed to jointly pay $3.45 million to settle allegations that Sierra Vista Hospital defrauded Medicare, the Sacramento Bee's "Sacto 9-1-1" reports.

PSI and the Sacramento mental hospital are owned by UHS (Lindelof, "Sacto 9-1-1," Sacramento Bee, 5/1).

Wagner said that between January 2003 and September 2009, the hospital billed Medicare's Partial Hospitalization Program for patients who rarely received outpatient treatment, failed to get proper approvals for treatment and did not obtain physician orders for certain tests (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/1).

Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Last week, Stanford Hospital & Clinics agreed to a three-year contract on HMO and PPO rates with Blue Shield of California, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Lindy Wagner -- a Blue Shield spokesperson -- said the deal means that all Blue Shield members will continue to receive coverage for care at the hospital and its clinics (Gonzales, San Jose Mercury News, 4/27).

Sutter Health

On Tuesday, about 4,500 nurses at seven Sutter Health hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area went on a one-day strike to protest Sutter's proposed changes to sick leave policies and nurses' health coverage premiums, the Sacramento Bee reports (Sandoval, Sacramento Bee, 5/2).

Tuesday's strike was the third by Sutter nurses since September 2011 (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/1).

Ann Gaebler -- a nurse on the bargaining unit at Sutter's Alta Bates Summit Medical Center -- said the California Nurses Association believes proposals at some Sutter hospitals would eliminate 12 paid sick leave days for nurses.

Karen Garner -- a spokesperson for Sutter Health -- said nurses will keep their 40 days of paid sick leave and vacation under Sutter's proposals. In addition, Garner said that the proposals still will allow nurses to have the option of premium-free health plans (Sacramento Bee, 5/2). 

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