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Modesto’s Central Valley hospital goes above and beyond to boost patient outcomes

Patients rehab at Central Valley Specialty Hospital

Central Valley Specialty Hospital in Modesto provides extended care for people with strokes, traumatic injuries and other medical issues.
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Central Valley Specialty Hospital in Modesto provides extended care for people with strokes, traumatic injuries and other medical issues.

Jesus Juarez of Fresno still is recovering from a bad fall last year and doesn’t seem to mind rehabbing in a facility 95 miles from home.

He’s been working to regain his strength in a long-term care hospital in downtown Modesto. To restore function in his hands, physical therapy staff had him punch the numbers on a phone Wednesday and practice taking sips from a cup

“I’m glad my wife made them transfer me here,” said Juarez, 66. “(The therapists) are all excellent. I enjoy their attitude and appreciate them.”

Central Valley Specialty Hospital is working on its public image after state regulators in March noted deficiencies in infection control and nursing services at the hospital, at 17th and H streets, and required a plan for corrections.

The owner responded by hiring a hospitalist group to provide physician coverage for patients, which is not always seen at long-term facilities. Infection control experts were brought in to work with nurses.

The hospital also has a new management team that is touting the strengths of the long-term acute care hospital, which opened in 2013.

Elliott North is the new chief executive officer, replacing Gia Smith. The team also includes Chief of Operations Chris Lowey and Chief Nursing Officer Sony Sidhu, who brings 19 years of nursing experience.

Owner Gurpreet Singh said the hospital has taken strides to improve infection control and is making other corrections to guarantee it remains in the Medicare program. “We are moving in the right direction,” Singh said.

Jack Cheevers, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Wednesday that the hospital is certified to participate in Medicare. “CMS is reviewing the hospital’s status. We have no other comment at this time,” Cheevers wrote in an email.

Singh said it’s not unusual for CMS to threaten ouster from Medicare as a stick for hospitals to come into compliance. What’s most important is correcting the deficiencies, and the Modesto hospital is doing more than what’s required.

The owner said the public should know that Central Valley operates in the long-term acute care industry, a health sector that cares for patients with some of the most complex conditions. Due to the poor condition of many patients, mortality rates are higher than in regular hospitals, and it invariably leads to complaints, Singh said.

He printed out Yelp comments that panned all of the LTAC facilities from San Francisco to Southern California.

To separate itself from the pack, Central Valley highlights its 67 percent rate of weaning patients off ventilators. Its success with those patients is consistently better than the national rate, which currently is 59 percent, and is attributed to innovations in getting patients to break reliance on breathing devices.

The hospital’s top executives said careful management of patients limited hospital readmissions to less than 5 percent in November and December of last year and 7 percent in October.

The Modesto hospital has arrangements with five pulmonologists, or lung specialists, so physicians are available daily to visit patients needing that care.

North said the hospital has invested in a bedside monitoring system, called SafetyNet, that records respiratory and heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen and other patient data and sends a text message to staff if there’s a concern.

“I don’t know of (other LTACs) using the SafetyNet system,” North said. “We are pending arrival for these units.”

Central Valley watched some families opt for facilities in the Bay Area or Sacramento after Medicare made its demands for corrections three months ago. But it also gets referrals from other regions when adult patients need rehab or therapy after surgery.

Robert Clark, 36, underwent a thoracic fusion surgery following a serious infection and has worked on restoring his ability to walk. The Fresno resident gave a good review of Central Valley’s staff this week.

“It is kudos to them,” Clark said. “They keep you informed on what is going on. When they say I am doing a good job, it is very encouraging.”

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