Sutter Director Not Worried Over Medicare Funds for Transplants
Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento on Wednesday was notified by federal officials that its heart transplant program might lose Medicare funding because it failed to meet minimum agency standards for the number of procedures performed annually, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Federal regulations require at least 12 heart transplants annually to ensure quality. However, the hospital performed three heart transplants in 2005 and performed four transplants in 2006.
The hospital has 30 days to submit a correction plan or else it faces a loss of Medicare funding.
Douglas Schuch, surgical director for the heart transplant program, said he is not concerned about the notification because Sutter has proven that despite low numbers, the quality of its transplants is excellent.
Schuch said that new regulations requiring available hearts to go to recipients within 500 miles have made it harder for the hospital to perform transplants on local patients.
The hospital plans to give a medical device to its patients who have an immediate need for a heart transplant and face the possibility of being transferred to another facility for the procedure, Schuch said. The device helps pump a weakened heart and buys the hospital time to find a donor heart.
According to the Bee, the hospital has faced similar problems with Medi-Cal reimbursements. Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, also requires hospitals to perform a minimum number of transplants to receive reimbursement (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 2/1).