SVMC corrects deficiencies, maintains Medicare eligibility
BENNINGTON — A recent inspection, following an incident in which two emergency room nurses failed to immediately report a patient’s death, found no continuing deficiencies at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center — allowing Medicare payments to continue.
Officials at the Bennington hospital said the three-day visit by state regulators, representing the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, concluded Oct. 30.
If the inspection had found uncorrected deficiencies, SVMC could have lost eligibility to receive Medicare payments.
Thomas Dee, president and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, the hospital’s parent company, said he was pleased with the findings. He thanked the nurses, doctors and other staff who worked to make sure the hospital could continue to accept Medicare payments.
The inspection was triggered by an incident reported by hospital officials Oct. 2.
Because of confidentiality issues, hospital officials have not provided the patient’s name, the nurses’ names or some details about the incident.
The incident involved a patient who died unexpectedly at the hospital after coming to the SVMC emergency department and complaining of back pain. After an initial assessment, the patient was still in the emergency department when a nonclinical employee noticed the patient appeared to have died.
The employee notified both nurses caring for the patient, SVMC said, but neither immediately checked on the patient or reported the change of condition to a doctor.
A few minutes later, the nurse in charge also noticed the patient had died and immediately called a doctor, SVMC said.
The hospital offered its “sincere apology to the patient’s family,” Dee said.
“We have remained in contact with them and will continue to keep them apprised of the changes we have made to ensure our care remains at the highest standard,” he said.
Dee said the hospital’s administrators did not wait for the response from CMS before making changes to address the concerns raised by the incident. The hospital’s “plan of correction” was approved by its board of trustees Oct. 24, submitted to CMS the next day and accepted Oct. 28.
In addition to the failure by the nurses to report the patient’s condition, CMS found hospital policies on privacy and obtaining consent for treatment were not followed.
Kevin Robinson, a spokesman for the hospital, would not release any information about actions taken against the two nurses, but did say they no longer worked for the company.
Robinson also said there was no direct statement by CMS officials that actions of anyone at SVMC caused the death of the patient.
Nursing leadership was restructured in the emergency department and staff were provided new education on patient safety, informed consent, confidentiality of records and the duty to immediately report unsafe behaviors or conditions.
Other steps taken at the hospital, like revising patient consent procedures to ensure clear documentation, requiring two witnesses to the consent process and establishing new protocols, are focused on improving the emergency department.
In a statement, Carol Conroy, the hospital’s vice president of operations and chief nursing officer, said the hospital’s staff is committed to maintaining high standards and ensuring patient safety.
“We have already begun monitoring our success and will continue to do so to ensure we have achieved our objectives,” she said.
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