Chester Regional Medical Center could face Medicare penalty

Chester Regional Medical Center is one of 13 hospitals in South Carolina facing a possible 1 percent cut in Medicare payments because of the rates of infections patients pick up there.

Hospitals are rated on a 1-to-10 scale. Those with a rating of 7 or above face the penalty. Chester Regional Medical Center’s preliminary rating is an 8.

In a statement, Chester Regional Medical Center officials said the current Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report includes only one year of data. The final report will based on two years of data and the medical center is “optimistic that two years of data will demonstrate our quality care and no penalties.”

According to its statement, Chester Regional Medical Center has eliminated the incidence of central line infections over the past 18 months.

A central line-associated bloodstream infection occurs when germs, usually bacteria or viruses, enter the bloodstream through a central line. Health care providers must follow a strict protocol when inserting the line to make sure the line remains sterile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Patients who get a central line infection usually have a fever, and might also have red skin and soreness around the central line. If this happens, health care providers can do tests to see there is an infection.

Chester Regional Medical Center said it has also reduced catheter-associated infections to zero over the past 30 months.

These infections usually occur in the bladder or kidney. Germs do not normally live in these areas; but are introduced via a urinary catheter.

Chester Regional Medical Center said it has implemented “numerous best practices” such as hourly rounds of patients and regular meetings to review potential safety concerns to reduce the number of preventable complications.

Other best practices include stressing simple guidelines – don’t insert catheters into the bloodstream unless it’s absolutely needed, remove when they are not needed and take extra steps to ensure a sterile environment when inserting and maintaining catheters.

Chester Regional Medical Center is also participating in the Carolinas Centers for Medical Excellence and the South Carolina Hospital Association’s Partnership for Patients, two quality improvement initiatives.

About one-quarter of hospitals nationwide – 761 overall – face the penalties under the federal Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program. The effort is aimed at reducing avoidable complications from hospital stays, which it estimates impact one out of every eight patients nationally.

The only S.C. hospital Medicare listed as assured of a penalty – those with ratings of nine or above – is Chesterfield General Hospital in Cheraw.

The State newspaper contributed.