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  • Asheville Citizen-Times

    US, NC health officials confirm Asheville's Mission Hospital passes inspection

    By Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen Times,

    30 days ago

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    ASHEVILLE - Federal and state hospital regulators have confirmed that Mission Hospital − which was sanctioned half a year ago for problems that officials said led to patient deaths − has passed an unannounced inspection that showed no deficiencies.

    An official June 11 decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services represents a return to normal status for the hospital. But a state legislator who represents the Asheville area said "serious problems" remain at Mission.

    The areas in which the hospital had been deficient were in its governing body, patients' rights, quality assurance and performance improvement, nursing services, laboratory services and emergency services. The violations had put the hospital at risk of losing federal payments for older, poor and disabled patients.

    But a "survey" late last month by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services inspectors said the hospital had improved those areas, according to documents provided June 12 by state Sen. Julie Mayfield, whose 49th District covers central Buncombe County including Asheville.

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2JX3my_0tpJenaj00

    "An onsite revisit was conducted May 20, 2024, through May 23, 2024. No deficiencies were identified," according to comments made in the inspection report.

    A June 11 letter from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, meanwhile, said due to the state inspection findings the hospital was no longer at risk of losing those payments for older, poor and disabled patients.

    "It has been determined that your hospital is now in compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation," said Melissa Foreman, a branch manager with the CMS Atlanta Survey and Enforcement Division. The letter was addressed to Mission CEO Chad Patrick.

    Mission spokesperson Nancy Lindell, reached June 12, referred the Citizen Times to a June 4 email to staff by Greg Lowe, N.C. division president for HCA, the for-profit company that bought the formerly nonprofit Mission in 2019. In the email, Lowe told staff the hospital had gotten a favorable inspection. But the new documents represent the official decision to reinstate Mission.

    In the email, Lowe said the 10 surveyors talked to staff and patients and that "one common thread was clear: patients are receiving excellent care, often exceeding their expectations."

    He said the hospital would continue to welcome the inspections as part of a "commitment to caring for patients and our constant pursuit of excellence."

    In June 12 comments to the Citizen Times Mayfield, the Democratic state senator, said she knew patients received "excellent care at Mission every day" but that "serious problems remain."

    "HCA may have polished up enough to pass this latest inspection, but I continue to hear multiple distressing stories every week from patients and providers that reflect HCA's ongoing and systemic divestment in staff and resources. I will continue to share those stories with the regulators so that they can hold Mission accountable for substandard patient care in the future," said Mayfield.

    The Citizen Times reached out to Mayfield's Republican opponent in the Nov. 5 election Kristie Sluder.

    Mayfield said problems at Mission are "problems of choice" and that HCA's stock is at an all-time high. A market search back to 2011 showed the company's stock had increased nearly 1,000% and at $340.72 was the highest in that 23-year period.

    "So the issue is not lack of resources. It's about lack of will to invest in our people, our providers and our facilities to provide the best in class care that we used to have and deserve to have again," Mayfield said.

    Many of the loudest criticisms of HCA's management of Mission have come from nurses who unionized in 2020 and are now in negotiations for a new contract. Reacting to the official decision, cardiovascular intensive care unit nurse Kelly Coward said in a statement to the Citizen Times that compliance "is the floor for patient care" and that HCA can afford even higher standards.

    "Hopefully, this situation has been instructive for management, and we'll see conditions continue to improve even when there aren't regulatory inspectors present in the hospital," Coward said.

    More: Federal lawsuit: Mission/HCA illegally kept pay of 1,000 hospital, other workers

    Judge OKs new Western NC hospital with ER north of Asheville; could be expanded to 93 beds

    Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He's written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Got a tip? Contact Burgess at jburgess@citizentimes.com, 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times .

    This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: US, NC health officials confirm Asheville's Mission Hospital passes inspection

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