Four Alaska hospitals could face fines from the federal government over their quality of care.
Federal officials released a preliminary analysis of which hospitals rank in the bottom 25 percent nationally for the number of infections and serious complications after a patient visits the hospital.
Those facilities -- a total of 761 nationwide -- will likely be fined 1 percent of the payments they receive from Medicare starting in October. Four of them are right here in Alaska: Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital, Alaska Native Medical Center and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
Between 2012 and 2013, Alaska Regional had seven post-surgical blood clots. Julie Taylor, the CEO of that hospital, said that’s part of the reason why her hospital received a low national ranking when it comes to the number of infections patients get during their visit.
“During that time period, over the 41,000 encounters we had seven patients that had blood clots, three patients that developed catheter-associated urinary tract infection, one fall and six patients that had (Clostridium difficile infectious diarrhea),” Taylor said.
Taylor says her hospital has emphasized training in an effort to reduce those rates.
“Making sure we are training people as they are coming on board and know the new procedures and to make sure they understand that the rules are -- it’s our responsibility to make sure that’s always front and center,” Taylor said. “The bigger penalty to me is the facts that we had these happen in the first place.”
Providence reports 17 central line-associated bloodstream infections -- caused when germs or bacteria enter the body through tubes inserted into major arteries -- in 2012.
“We’ve been paying attention for the last couple of years, but I wish we would have paid even more attention soon,” said Dr. Richard Mandsager, Providence's hospital administrator.
The rise in central line infections in 2012 may have been the reason why Providence was in the lower quarter of hospitals nationally for safety measures Medicare is tracking. In 2013, the hospital had six such infections, a marked drop from the previous year.
“Every hospital is paying more attention to this,” Mandsager said. “Getting to some of these measures, unless you are close to perfect you’re failing.”
Providence and Alaska Regional say they don’t expect to be on the Medicare list next year. Both say their numbers have gone down since the study and say the report is a good way to monitor patient care.
“I think the industry is going to get better,” Mandsager said.
“The bigger issue is making sure we can prevent these things from happening,” Taylor said.
Alaska Regional predicts a potential Medicare fine of roughly $300,000, while Providence estimates their penalties to be anywhere between $500,000 and $700,000, and Fairbanks Memorial says its fine may be up to $400,000.