The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has temporarily suspended the license of Southern Inyo Hospital (SIH) following a site survey on January 13, according to Alan Germany, Chief Restructuring Officer at SIH.
SIH staff has readied the facility for the survey and the required staffing for dietary, pharmacy, nursing, physician, radiology and laboratory were all in place. Dr. Karen Smith, Director of CDPH, told Richard Fedchenko, SIHD Board President, the survey failed for two deficiencies.
The first was regarding physicians. At an earlier meeting of the SIHD held on January 12, Dr. Parmod Kumar was given hospital privileges and appointed as Medical Director of SIH. He will serve as the hospital physician on call 24/7 for several days or even a week at a time. What was missing was the second physician to whom Kumar would pass relevant information on the patients to at the end of his shift. That is already being addressed with the preparation of contracts with a number of qualified physicians who are available to serve SIH.
The second deficiency was the absence of the nursing and support staff for the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF). HCCA had not been notified by the CDPH survey team in advance that they expected to see this team in place. That will be easily rectified for the next survey.
Smith indicated that CDPH has been working hard to save the hospital and that it is the position of the CDPH that the applicable law required suspension of the license because the hospital was not yet in total compliance. SIH re-licensing will be easy when the hospital is fully operational and ready to admit patients, she said. There is no fine for being in suspension, and Smith advised that the suspension of the license will have no effect on the hospital’s standing with Medicare and MediCal. Reimbursements from these governmental payers will continue for bills already submitted and the new billing may resume when the suspension of the license is removed. She also advised that the process will not be made more difficult simply because the license has been suspended.
A court action to prevent CDPH from independently suspending or forcing the hospital to voluntarily suspend the license was unsuccessful.
NIH picks up slack
The closure of SIH includes the closing of the Skilled Nursing Facility. What to do with the facility’s 17 residents? Northern Inyo Hospital (NIH) and the Bishop Care Center took in 15 of those residents. Dr. Kevin Flanigan, interim NIH CAO, said at a Board meeting on January 20 that the care center was ready with extra staffing to handle the incoming patients, but due to technical difficulties, the shuttle van was late and the extra staff at the care center had already gone home. Flanigan said he was impressed with how NIH employees stepped up and made the facility residents comfortable and warm until space was available at the care center. Consequently, the Bishop Care Center is now at capacity.