Hospital board updates CMS out of public view
Published: January 24, 2013
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ST. CROIX - Luis Hospital board members have selected their first choice - someone from in-house - to lead the hospital's efforts to meet the mandates of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.
After an executive session that lasted more than three hours, the board on Wednesday night announced that it had interviewed candidates for the chief operating officer post, and decided on one person to whom it plans to make an offer.
However, board Chairwoman Kye Walker would not say who the person is.
She said a name would be announced after an offer was accepted.
The board also met behind closed doors with federal regulators from CMS to discuss how the hospital is doing with meeting the requirements of the settlement agreement - and the level of communication between the hospital and the federal agency.
Two representatives from CMS, Sharon Roberson and Dr. Nilsa Gutierrez, CMS Region 2 chief medical officer, were present at the meeting.
CMS is on St. Croix to survey the hospital again after receiving a complaint, Walker said. She said she did not know the nature of the complaint.
Although the issue of complying with the settlement agreement has been of keen interest to the public - officials have repeatedly warned that if the problems CMS has already identified aren't fixed by a February deadline, the hospital could lose the ability to participate in Medicare and Medicaid - the board discussed the hospital's progress with the settlement agreement behind closed doors.
The meeting was closed to the public under a section of V.I. Code that says a meeting can be closed when it could "disclose information which must be withheld from the public in order to avoid premature disclosure of an action or a proposed action" by "any agency where such disclosure would seriously frustrate implementation of the proposed agency action, or private action contingent thereon."
After the meeting, Walker said the board had not known whether it might need to take action. It did not, she said.
During the summary reporting out of executive session, Walker said that CMS had made it clear during the discussion that the federal agency would have to approve the hospital's plan for reopening its behavioral health unit.
The hospital closed that unit in November and now sends patients in need of acute inpatient psychiatric care off-island for treatment. Hospital officials said at the time that the closure was temporary and was necessary so that renovations could be done and so staff could be retrained and recruited.
Although the hospital initially characterized the move as a 90-day closure, officials said earlier this month that the closure will be longer than 90 days, although it was not clear how much longer.
On Wednesday, Walker said that CMS officials had told the board that the federal agency would have to approve of any plan for reopening the unit to ensure that appropriate patient safety and care is provided.
During the executive session, CMS also provided tips on how hospital staff and the board can improve communications with the federal agency, Walker said. CMS wants communications from the hospital to be more frequent and more timely, Walker said.
The board also met with Premier, a consulting company, to discuss the hospital's third plan of correction to address outstanding issues with CMS, Walker said. The federal agency rejected two previous plans of correction and the hospital anticipates providing a third plan to CMS by the end of the month.
The board also interviewed three in-house candidates for the chief operating officer position, she said.
The chief operating officer position is to be held by someone with a clinical background who will be responsible for the clinical operations of the hospital and will oversee implementation of the settlement agreement. The chief operating officer will report directly to the board, not to Chief Executive Officer Jeff Nelson.
The board plans to make an offer to the candidate it chose as soon as today and hopes to have the new COO on board by Jan. 31, and possibly sooner, Walker said.
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.