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4 LI hospitals rate poorly in avoidable patient injuries, infections, report finds

A file photo of North Shore University Hospital

A file photo of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset taken on Jan. 10, 2014. Photo Credit: Ian J. Stark

Four Long Island hospitals and more than a dozen in New York City scored low on critical patient-safety measures, and each will lose 1 percent of its Medicare payments for a year because of infections and injuries the government deemed avoidable, a new report shows.

Penalized hospitals include several members of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System: Plainview Hospital; Southside Hospital in Bay Shore; North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset; and Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Stony Brook University Hospital also was cited.

All are among 41 hospitals in New York and 721 nationwide with significant rates of hospital-acquired conditions, which included medical equipment-associated infections and a long list of patient injuries that ranged from falls, broken hips and bed sores to reopened surgical wounds. The patient-safety violations were tabulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the agency that administers the Medicare program. Medicare underwrites health care costs for people 65 and older.

Infections cited by the government included those linked to tubing called a central line, which are inserted into a vein in the chest, arm or groin. The lines can carry nutrients or medication, but they have been associated with serious and sometimes lethal bloodstream infections. Catheter-associated urinary tract infections also were listed. Both central line and urinary-catheter infections are seen as avoidable.

"We're aware of the report, and like other data we get from the state and federal governments and through hospital report cards, we are always looking to improve," Terry Lynam, spokesman for North Shore-LIJ, said in a statement Monday. He did not say how much money the health care system would lose as a result of the penalty. Medicare is assessing the levy on payments for the fiscal period running from October of this year through September 2015.

Stony Brook administrators also declined to say how much the 1 percent penalty would affect their bottom line.

"Stony Brook University Hospital, like many other academic medical centers across the country, has been studying the information from Medicare related to composite measures," spokesman Greg Filiano said in a statement Monday. "We are extremely focused on safety for our patients and staff; the medical and nursing staffs have recently implemented many improvements and upgrades."

"Still, we know that there is always room for improvement, that no complication is acceptable, and we actively support and implement industry initiatives to enhance safety and quality," Filiano said.

Many of the hospitals on the government's list included premier teaching institutions, which some doctors said Monday unfairly targets the type of hospitals that admit the sickest patients. The government ranked facilities on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being worst. Plainview Hospital and Southside both received scores of 8. North Shore's main campus in Manhasset was scored 8.3; Lenox Hill received a 9.025 and Stony Brook, 8.7.

The 1 percent penalty is considered the toughest measure to date that Medicare has taken on hospital safety lapses. The penalties are being levied under the Affordable Care Act as a way to shave health care costs and prompt hospitals to improve safety measures. The government estimates the penalties total about $373 million.

Arthur Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers in Manhattan, said withholding money from hospitals may help improve patient safety, but for some hospitals the 1 percent loss in Medicare payments could prove to be nothing more "than a slap on the wrist," he said.

"What Medicare is trying to do is a step in the right direction," Levin said Monday. "But we haven't had enough time with this new system to know whether the 1 percent levied against hospitals is enough to make them pay attention."

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