August 23,2007

Senators Question Safety at Specialty Hospitals

Grassley, Baucus ask specialty hospitals about patient safety after 911 calls for 150 patients

WASHINGTON — Sens. Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus are asking specialty hospitals in Arizona about patient safety following an investigative report this summer by Phoenix-based KPHO-TV that revealed 911 was called to transfer 150 specialty hospital patients to community hospitals for emergency care.

“A hospital ought to be able to treat complications quickly and on-site, or it shouldn’t be called a hospital and allowed to perform serious surgery,” Grassley said. “The more I hear about surgery at specialty hospitals, the more concerned I am. Patients admitted to specialty often have no clue that they’re not in a traditional hospital until there’s a complication and then it can be too late.”

“I remain very concerned about specialty hospitals’ ability to provide emergency care,” Baucus said. “When hospital patients need emergency care, they absolutely should not have to be transported across town to receive it. I will continue to monitor physicianowned specialty hospitals to ensure that Medicare patients – and all hospital patients – receive only the highest quality care.”

Baucus is Chairman and Grassley is Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.

In 2005, they introduced the Hospital Fair Competition Act, which would have prohibited physicians from referring Medicare and Medicaid patients to new specialty hospitals in which they have an ownership interest.

In addition, the Finance Committee has conducted hearings on specialty hospitals and highlighted a report of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission about problems caused by specialty hospitals. Grassley and Baucus have worked together to slow the growth in specialty hospitals with a 18-month moratorium that began in December 2003 and a subsequent suspension of Medicare enrollment for new facilities. The Finance Committee is responsible Medicare and Medicaid policy and oversight.

The text of the senators’ letter and a list of addresses are included in the printer-friendly version of this release, along with the investigative report of KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona.