Greenville Memorial Hospital May Lose Medicare Coverage after Patient’s Death

An investigation into the death of an emergency room turns up a host of issues at Greenville Memorial Hospital that may threaten its Medicare contract.
Published: April 6, 2017

Greenville Memorial Hospital could lose its Medicare contract after the death of an emergency room patient and the subsequent review of a variety of issues at the hospital.

South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Controls Site Survey Agency investigated the hospital after the death of Donald Keith Smith, 48, who died as a result of traumatic asphyxiation, reports The audit found that hospital security officers improperly restrained Smith, strapping him face down to a gurney during an altercation, rendering him unable to breathe.

The patient’s death was determined to be a homicide. (More on the incident here.)

After reviewing a video recording of the incident, conducting interviews and reviewing Greenville Memorial’s policies, auditors found that “the hospital failed to ensure that the nursing personnel and the contracted security staff followed hospital policies and procedures for aggression management and physician orders related to restraints and holds,” says April Washington, a spokeswoman with the CMS regional office in Atlanta.

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“The security officers failed to perform a safe takedown hold in that the patient’s upper body was positioned face down on the bed and there was no clinical assessment of the restrained patient throughout the incident to ensure the patient’s safety,” adds Washinton.

Furthermore, the audit found deficiencies in multiple areas of hospital care that could cause Greenville Memorial to lose its Medicare contract next month if it doesn’t correct the problems.

Read: When Does HIPAA Allow Hospitals to Give Patient Information to Police?

Termination of Medicare would put the hospital at risk of losing $305 million in annual revenue and force about 13,000 patients, or about 38 percent of its inpatients, to seek treatment elsewhere, according to figures provided by Sandy Dees, GHS spokeswoman.

Dees adds that Greenville Memorial self-reported its deficiencies to both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The hospital is working to correct the issues before the April 16 deadline.

Any potential loss of Medicare coverage would affect all Medicare patients at Greenville Memorial but wouldn’t affect any other GHS affiliated hospitals, practices or doctor’s offices, according to Scott Sasser, chair of emergency medicine for the Greenville Health System.

The State Law Enforcement Division is in the midst of conducting a criminal investigation into Smith’s death.

The hospital system has removed the security officers involved in the incident from the hospital.

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