Wilkes-Barre Hospital Among 39 PA Hospitals Fined for Preventable Medical Errors

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

Nobody wants to go to the hospital. Everyone who does, however, shares two common goals: spend as little time there as possible, and leave in better condition than when they arrived. Federal authorities recently have begun to crack down on hospitals that are doing an unacceptably poor job of helping their patients achieve those seemingly basic goals. Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as “ObamaCare,” Medicare has assessed penalties against hospitals whose statistics indicate a high rate of hospital acquired conditions, or HACs. HACs, which are considered preventable through adherence to best practices in hygiene, sanitation, and other patient care, can include anything from an injurious slip and fall in the hospital room shower to a deadly MRSA infection. The fines, which take the form of a one-percent reduction in Medicare payments, went into effect in October 2014. The HAC rankings were compiled based on statistics collected in 2012 and 2013. Across the country, 721 hospitals have been hit by the new penalties, which apply to any hospital with a score of 7 or greater on Medicare’s 1-10 HAC scale; lower scores are better. Why are we telling you all this? Two of the penalized hospitals are in Northeast Pennsylvania, including Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre and Palmerton Hospital in Carbon County. Click the link above to see if your hospital has been penalized, too. That doesn’t mean you should panic if you or a loved one is scheduled for a visit or stay in one of these facilities. It does mean, however, that you should consider educating yourself about the risks of hospital-acquired conditions, knowing that you may be at higher risk of suffering one at these hospitals than you might be elsewhere. The HAC score is a composite of a hospital’s scores in three categories:

  • CLABSI: bloodstream infections associated with the use of a central line, an intravenous catheter typically inserted into a patient’s arm or chest that enables hospital staff to take blood samples or administer medications over a longer period of time.
  • CAUTI: urinary tract infections in patients who have been catheterized.
  • Serious Complications: a catch-all category that includes everything from blood clots to patient falls.

Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre ended up just over the penalty threshold after coming in with a total HAC score of 7.05. That it did not score even more poorly was a function of its CLABSI score, which was only 2. That brought its average down when combined with its scores of 9 for Serious Complications and 10 for CAUTIs. Palmerton Hospital in Carbon County had a total HAC score of 9.00, one of the worst scores in the entire state. Of the 39 hospitals in Pennsylvania that were penalized under the program, only six, including Palmerton Hospital, had HAC scores of 9.00 or worse. Palmerton’s total HAC score was based exclusively on its Serious Complications rating of 9; data on its CLABSI and CAUTI infection rates were not available. Again, our intent here is not to upset anyone who plans to visit these hospitals, which continue to be staffed by hundreds of conscientious and skilled medical professionals and support personnel. We would like to think that all the penalized hospitals have taken notice of their low scores and are working to improve their patient care environments. That said, if you or a loved one has suffered because of a hospital acquired condition, or HAC, the experienced medical malpractice attorneys of Scartelli Olszewski can help. Give us a call at 877-353-0529.