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Modesto long-term care hospital is told to make improvements – or else

The former City Hospital at 17th and H streets was revamped three years ago to create Central Valley Specialty Hospital.
The former City Hospital at 17th and H streets was revamped three years ago to create Central Valley Specialty Hospital. Modesto Bee file

Editor’s Note: Registered nurses Petrina Beugre and Leonor Cash, who were pictured in a file photo in The Bee working at the Central Valley Specialty Hospital in Modesto, have not worked in that hospital for several years.

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The federal government is demanding that a long-term care hospital in Modesto improve practices such as infection control and nursing services, or the facility will be removed from the Medicare program.

In a March 5 survey, state health officials found that Central Valley Specialty Hospital had fallen short of meeting the requirements of Medicare, the national health program for almost 50 million seniors and certain disabled people.

The matter was kicked upstairs to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which notified Central Valley last month that its agreement with Medicare will end June 20 if it fails to make corrections. The CMS letter said the hospital, at the corner of 17th and H streets, was not in substantial compliance with requirements for patient rights, nursing, infection control, quality improvement and food services.

A lack of Medicare reimbursements would threaten the financial stability of the 96-bed hospital. Kindred Healthcare, a previous owner of the downtown facility, vacated the building in 2010 after losing Medicare payments. The building sat empty until Central Valley opened its doors in July 2013.

Gia Smith, Central Valley’s chief executive officer, said Friday that the hospital is making significant improvements. She expects the state will be satisfied with its plan for corrections. “They are going to come back and check to see if we are doing what we promised,” Smith said.

According to the CEO, the deficiencies noted in the state inspections did not result in injuries to patients. Staff members were written up for not using proper procedures in the care of patients with infections. Smith said the long-term care hospital has a significant number of patients who are transferred from other facilities with infections.

To correct the lapses, Central Valley hired infection prevention experts for monitoring staff and making sure they follow procedures.

Through a contract with a hospitalist group, a physician or nurse practitioner is now in the building or available 24 hours a day to oversee patient care.

Other improvements include a “Code Blue” team ready to respond to patient rooms in emergencies, Smith said.

Central Valley cares for patients who have suffered strokes, traumatic injuries in a car crash or respiratory diseases that placed them on a ventilator. Many have multiple health conditions or are transferred from medical centers for rehabilitative care.

Jack Cheevers, a spokesman for CMS in San Francisco, said the state Department of Public Health is reviewing Central Valley’s plan for corrections. Termination of the Medicare agreement can be averted if the plan is approved and the facility follows through with improvements.

Phil Rushing, who has a contract to provide rehab services at Central Valley, said the hospital plays a vital role in the community.

After Kindred closed its doors in 2010, it created a shortage of beds and patients were transferred far outside Stanislaus County for this type of care.

“There are not a lot of these facilities around,” Rushing said. “They are striving to do a professional job from the top down. They have already made some big changes.”

Yelp comments on Central Valley run the gamut from “staff are amazing” to another comment giving the facility a two-star rating to complaints alleging substandard care.

“If you have family or friends in this facility, be sure that daily they are checked up on and send a patient advocate in,” another comment says.

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