Wake-up call for hospital | TheUnion.com

Wake-up call for hospital

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley is important to all of us. It is the only hospital in western Nevada County, an area with a high percentage of elderly residents who need quality health care near home.

In tough economic times for the health industry in general, our hospital is struggling to survive – and even to grow – in the face of increasing competition from hospitals in Auburn, Roseville and even Sacramento.

We support them in that struggle. That’s why we’re concerned about the recent news that the federal government has threatened to cut Sierra Nevada Memorial off from Medicare payments unless it fixes problems in its pharmacy.

It’s not so much that an employee was found stealing narcotics 18 months ago, and a subsequent study in November spotlighted problems such as drugs left unattended or unlocked, and unsigned or missing medication orders.

Everybody needs a wake-up call now and then. What’s most important is how you respond to such problems.

So, what particularly concerns us is that after the state pointed out what needed to be remedied and Medicare issued its cut-off warning, a second survey in April by the state Department of Health Services still found deficiencies that the report says “substantially limit the hospital’s capacity to render adequate care … “

This is no joking matter. Medicare officials are serious as a heart attack. A third survey will take place as soon as Medicare reviews Sierra Nevada Memorial’s latest plan of action. If the hospital fails again, some heads could roll.

And rightly so, because with Medicare patients making up more than half of its customers, the hospital could find it hard to survive – or at least face a hard fight for reinstatement. That would be a blow to everyone in Nevada County, particularly older residents. The percentage of those over 65 is nearly double the state average.

We trust that leaders of Sierra Nevada Memorial, which is owned by Catholic Healthcare West, are heeding this wake-up call.

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