Federal inspectors make surprise visit to Luis Hospital to examine complaints

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ST. CROIX - Luis Hospital is once again under the regulatory microscope.

Federal inspectors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - CMS - showed up at the troubled hospital Monday morning in a surprise visit to conduct a weeklong, full inspection of the facility and to investigate complaints, officials said.

Luis Hospital Interim Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kendall Griffith said he does not know the nature of the complaints. That information, he said, was not provided to local hospital officials.

CMS generally does not make public the nature of complaints when it is investigating them.

The survey comes almost eight months after CMS, threatening to decertify Luis Hospital, conducted another top-to-bottom inspection of the facility in December.

The Daily News was unable to reach CMS on Monday night.

Because of a multitude of deficiencies and failure to live up to a November 2011 systems improvement agreement hospital officials signed with CMS, the hospital has been under threat of losing its CMS certification for some time now.

The certification allows Luis Hospital to be reimbursed for services it provides to Medicare and Medicaid patients, who comprise a large portion of the hospital's book of business.

Griffith said Monday that CMS has not yet released the report from its December inspection to the hospital.

This new survey also comes more than a month after the consultants whose services are required by CMS terminated their work at Luis because the hospital failed to pay them.

Griffith said Monday that the hospital owes about $600,000 to Premier, the CMS-approved consultants that the hospital hired to help it bring conditions up to CMS standards. Premier stopped work sometime in June, he said.

Luis Hospital remains under direct CMS oversight through a November 2011 systems improvement agreement that requires the hospital to use the services of an independent consultant approved by CMS.

Premier had been that consultant. It was not clear how Premier's departure might affect the outcome of this week's inspection.

In a statement released late Monday afternoon, the hospital announced the inspection had begun, saying that CMS inspectors had shown up unannounced on Monday morning and met with Griffith and other executives to discuss how the inspection would occur.

The statement indicated that there are seven representatives from CMS involved in the survey. The December survey involved three CMS representatives initially, with a fourth who arrived later.

On Dec. 8, the day the previous inspection ended, hospital officials said they expected a report within two to three weeks.

Griffith said Monday that the hospital has yet to receive the report from the December visit. He said he has asked about it and does not know why it has not been provided.

"I haven't gotten an official response yet," he said.

Nonetheless, Griffith said he feels "confident" that the hospital is ready for this week's inspection, which is expected to last through Friday.

"I feel confident that all the preparations that we have been doing makes us ready for the survey," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in the staff at JFL. I know that it is going to be a positive outcome. In all we continue to provide quality care for our patients."

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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