Health

Thursday, Apr 04 2013 05:38 PM

Inspectors like what they see at San Joaquin Community Hospital

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    San Joaquin Community Hospital.

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BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

San Joaquin Community Hospital received some good news this week after the latest in a string of visits from inspectors.

Investigators representing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, were back at the nonprofit hospital Tuesday for another survey after finding fault with the facility on multiple previous visits. But this time San Joaquin received a clean bill of health, according to hospital spokesman Jimmy Phillips.

In a brief exit interview "they told us that we passed without any deficiencies or any comments whatsoever," Phillips said.

The California Department of Public Health, which conducts hospital surveys for CMS, confirmed Thursday that its Licensing and Certification Program found that "all previously identified deficient practices at this facility were corrected" earlier this week.

Inspectors have dinged the hospital after some previous visits, citing infection control and other issues. In January the agency threatened to terminate the hospital's Medicare provider agreement if the problems weren't fixed.

The ongoing investigation, along with other delays, has held up the opening of The AIS Cancer Center at San Joaquin, a new $36.2 million, 60,000-square-foot facility across the street from the hospital's main campus on Chester Avenue.

Jack Cheevers, public information officer for CMS Region IX, confirmed via email that the hospital was revisited Tuesday and that inspectors "were in and out on the same day."

Phillips said two surveyors visited for about five hours Tuesday and stopped by the various departments in the main hospital. The hospital has not gotten a written report back yet, but Phillips said the surveyors told the hospital the report would be complete in a few days.

"They applauded us for our efforts," he said.

The affirmation was exciting, Phillips said, but not surprising.

"We were prepared and we have been putting an incredible amount of effort into this," he said.

Documents detailing inspectors' past visits and the hospital's plans to correct problems showed the hospital made an array of efforts to address concerns, including increasing corporate oversight of the hospital and bringing in the corporate chief operating officer to act as interim chief executive officer.

The hospital has submitted the paperwork for the cancer center's licensing to the state, Phillips said, and must now wait for another visit from the health department for approval.

"Once they do that, we're ready to go," Phillips said.

State officials have said the public health department will not approve the cancer center until the hospital is in compliance with state and federal regulations.

The California Department of Public Health verified that the hospital has submitted two licensing requests for an ambulatory surgery center and a cancer center, and that the department will conduct a licensing survey once it gets a go-ahead from CMS.

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