Feds to Cut Funding to Houston Hospital after Patient Death

The decision to cut funding is extremely uncommon and jeopardizes the hospital’s existence.

Health officials announced they will cut all Medicare and Medicaid funding to a Houston hospital following a federal investigation into the death of a patient.

St. Joseph Medical Center may have to close down as a result of the rare funding cuts, which take effect for any patients admitted on or after December 3.

The hospital is considering its options to avoid closure, including seeking an injunction in court, selling the hospital to another health care system, appealing the investigation’s findings and negotiating an agreement with federal health officials to come under compliance. Medicare and Medicaid programs cover 63 percent of St. Joseph’s current patients, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, made the uncommon decision to defund the hospital because of systemic issues it uncovered during its investigation that put the facility’s patients in “immediate jeopardy,” according to houstonpress.com.

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The investigation was sparked by the death of an unarmed psychiatric patient August 27. In that incident Alan Pean, 26, prompted nurses to call for hospital security after repeatedly walking out of his room in the psychiatric unit naked. Pean became combative with the two responding security officers, who Tased him when he wouldn’t calm down. Pean then hit one of the officers, who was also an off-duty member of the Houston Police Department, with a hospital tray table. The officer responded by shooting Pean in the chest. After the shooting, the officers kept Pean on the ground and handcuffed him. He later died.
Immediately after the incident, St. Joseph administrators blamed Pean and defended the off-duty police officer’s actions. Administrators said the officer was justified in using lethal force and refused to let hospital staff question the officers.

CMS had extended the time it gave St. Joseph to comply with national standards four times before making its decision. The CMS investigation found deficiencies with the hospital’s infection control, nursing services, security officer training and patient rights standards.

St. Joseph is the only designated level 3 trauma center in downtown Houston and serves more homeless people than any other hospital in the city. It is also one of the few private institutions that can provide inpatient mental health services, which greatly improves the community’s access to psychiatric care.

“We need that hospital to stay open,” said Darrell Pile, CEO of the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council.

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About the Author


Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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