Sacramento Bee Examines Effects of Redding Medical Center Investigations
The Sacramento Bee on Sunday examined the ongoing issues at Redding Medical Center and the effect that the investigation into the Santa Barbara-based Tenet Healthcare-owned hospital has had on the surrounding community, "its two hospitals -- and on the practice of medicine in California" (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 10/26). Tenet officials on Aug. 6 agreed to pay $54 million to settle allegations that two doctors on staff at Redding performed unnecessary heart surgeries and defrauded Medicare. Tenet did not admit wrongdoing under the settlement but agreed to implement new procedures at Redding. The settlement ended federal civil and criminal investigations into Tenet, subsidiary Tenet HealthSystems Hospitals and Redding, but it allowed investigations into the involvement of individuals in the alleged Medicare fraud at Redding to continue. The hospital continues to gather evidence supporting its case that it should not be banned from participating in Medicare and Medicaid, which account for as much as 75% of Redding's inpatient revenue (California Healthline, 10/3). One year after federal investigators first raided the offices of the two doctors accused of performing unnecessary surgeries, Redding's heart surgery program continues to be suspended, half of its beds are empty and profit is down nearly 50% from one year ago. Nearby Mercy Medical Center has seen admissions grow 13% from the quarter that ended June 30, 2002, to the same quarter in 2003, while its net patient revenue grew 11% during the same period, in part because of an influx of patients from Redding. In addition, "skepticism has seeped into conversations about cardiac care" statewide in conjunction with a "new drive to prevent unwarranted treatment," according to the Bee.
Redding continues to operate only diagnostic and follow-up cardiac services, according to a letter by Candace Markwith -- who became CEO in August -- in response to written questions from the Bee. If the cardiac program is reinstated, random audits of cardiac surgeries will be performed by outside physicians, Markwith said, adding that the hospital has created a new executive position, director of medical affairs, to coordinate peer review. In addition, the hospital will train physicians and employees to ensure that patients are adequately informed before they consent to a procedure (Sacramento Bee, 10/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.