Saturday, January 20, 2018
Health

HMA defends itself ahead of '60 Minutes' investigative piece

TALLAHASSEE — The Naples-based hospital chain Health Management Associates rushed Friday to try to defend itself against a critical story that the CBS News program 60 Minutes is expected to broadcast today about hospital admissions of emergency-room patients.

Alan Levine, an HMA senior vice president and Florida Group president, said during a conference call with media and analysts that the company is not certain of the details of the 60 Minutes report. But Levine, a former secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, represented the company in an interview with the show in October and said questions included whether HMA has excessive admissions from emergency rooms.

Levine said data show that the company's emergency-patient admissions are in line with the rest of the hospital industry. Also, he tried to stress that patients' doctors, not hospital officials, make decisions about whether admissions are needed.

"Simply put, administrators cannot and do not admit patients," he said.

In October, St. Petersburg's Bayfront Medical Center announced plans to join HMA's chain of hospitals. Bayfront and HMA plan to close the deal in March pending approval from the city of St. Petersburg, which owns the land on which the hospital sits.

The 60 Minutes website Friday included a thumbnail description of the report — dubbed "The Cost of Admission." John Merriwether, HMA's vice president of financial operations, said the company was informed late Thursday that the investigative piece would air.

"Steve Kroft investigates allegations from doctors that the hospital chain they worked for pressured them to admit patients regardless of their medical needs,'' the 60 Minutes website description says, referring to one of the highly rated program's correspondents.

HMA disclosed in previous U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filings that federal authorities have been investigating certain aspects of the company, including "the medical necessity of emergency room tests and patient admissions."

It said the investigations had been opened by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, with at least part of the issue focused on whether a type of emergency-room software led to unnecessary admissions or tests. The federal government has a huge stake in such issues because of the Medicare program.

At least part of the 60 Minutes focus could be on HMA's Carlisle Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania. The Patriot-News newspaper in Harrisburg, Pa., reported in July that a 60 Minutes producer had contacted former Carlisle Regional doctors and asked questions about issues such as whether emergency-room doctors faced pressure to admit patients.

When asked Friday about whether 60 Minutes is focusing on other hospitals in addition to Carlisle Regional, Levine responded, "At this point, we don't know."

HMA has 70 hospitals in 15 states, with the largest concentrations in Florida, Alabama and North Carolina, according to the company's website. The company's 22 Florida hospitals are generally in small or medium-sized markets.

HMA is also a prominent player in hospital-related issues in Tallahassee. Its roster of lobbyists includes figures such as former state Republican Chairman Al Cardenas.

Comments
Expect some pain. Thatís what hospitals are starting to tell patients as concern spreads over opioids

Expect some pain. Thatís what hospitals are starting to tell patients as concern spreads over opioids

Doctors at some of the largest U.S. hospital chains admit they went overboard with opioids to make people as pain-free as possible, and now they shoulder part of the blame for the nationís opioid crisis. In an effort to be part of the cure, theyíve b...
Published: 01/19/18
Itís flu season, and how: Hereís what you need to know

Itís flu season, and how: Hereís what you need to know

Cristi Fryberger, a fifth-grade teacher, was headed back for the first day of classes at St. Petersburg Christian School after the Christmas break but didnít feel well. She left a couple of hours later and went to an urgent care clinic, where a swab ...
Published: 01/19/18
This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

When Robert Owensís father was 75, he gave his son some advice. "He said, ĎYou know, son, the sad part is when you get old they just put you on a shelf and you become irrelevant. Fight to stay relevant. Fight to stay in the game, otherwise they will ...
Published: 01/18/18
5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

Five things we learned about President Donald Trump from Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the doctor who oversaw Trumpís first medical checkup in office. SLEEP Trump doesnít get much shut-eye. Jackson guessed that Trump snoozes four to five hours a nig...
Published: 01/17/18
A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

WASHINGTON ó The descriptions are haunting. Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins. A century after one of historyís most catastrophic disease o...
Published: 01/17/18
A popular school fundraiser is just Ďjunk-food marketing to kids,í experts say

A popular school fundraiser is just Ďjunk-food marketing to kids,í experts say

For 43 years, schoolkids and their parents have clipped the labels from cookie bags and cracker boxes as part of a popular rewards program called Labels for Education.Through this and similar programs ó think Tysonís Project A+ or General Millsí Box ...
Published: 01/17/18
Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Feeling a little sniffly or scratchy or stuffed up? It may be the flu, and you donít want to wait around to see a doctor this year. This is not the time to write off flu-like symptoms, Tampa Bay area health officials and doctors warn. The influenza v...
Published: 01/16/18

CDC says ĎThereís lots of flu in lots of places.í And itís not going away anytime soon.

A nasty flu season is in full swing across the United States, with a sharp increase in the number of older people and young children being hospitalized, federal health officials said Friday.The latest weekly data from the Centers for Disease Control ...
Published: 01/12/18
Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

SAFETY HARBOR ó Mease Countryside Hospital is launching a $156 million expansion to build a four-story patient tower with all private rooms and a four-story parking garage.The tower will include 70 private patient rooms, a 30-bed observation unit, cr...
Published: 01/11/18
Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

This yearís flu season is shaping up to be a bad one. Much of the country endured a bitterly cold stretch, causing more people to be crowded together inside. The strain that has been most pervasive, H3N2, is nastier than most. And, weíre being told, ...
Published: 01/11/18