Stroger risks Medicaid funding after lab investigation

  • By Alex Parker
  • Staff Writer
  • April 14, 2009 @ 12:30 PM

Stroger Hospital could lose federal funding and recognition of its laboratories if it doesn't fix problems identified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

CMS inspectors found Stroger labs to be non-compliant with federal standards in December, citing issues in bacteriology and high-complexity testing. It also cited problems with the laboratory director and with the labs' technical supervisor. A March re-inspection determined some of those problems had not been fixed, and found new issues with the hospital's analytic systems and its post-analytical procedures. The hospital was notified of the latest infractions April 1.

Illia Villanueva, CMS Region 5 branch manager for non-long term care, says the March inspection was a follow-up to ensure issues identified in December were corrected. She says the bacteriology complaint was fixed, but problems remained with the high-complexity testing and lab leadership.

CMS cited Stroger's laboratory director and technical supervisors because of the other problems found in the hospital's labs.

"If you're not doing the job in other areas, it basically falls on the laboratory director," Villanueva says.

Stroger Hospital's spokesman Marcel Bright did not return calls for comment.

Villanueva says the March inspection found the hospital failed to follow procedures in its analytic processes, specifically in chemistry and hematology. It also did not follow protocol in properly in maintaining instruments, and notifying practioners of patient results.

Stroger Hospital, one of four hospitals run by the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, submitted a plan of correction to the federal agency yesterday. At risk is Medicaid funding for the hospital's laboratories and the loss of its laboratory certificate, Villanueva says.

CMS told the hospital sanctions would be enacted the day after tomorrow, but Villanueva says it is "very unlikely" that will happen Thursday, as CMS officials review Stroger's plan of correction.

At last week's Cook County Health and Hospitals System board meeting, board members said they had 45 days to fix the probems. CMS will revisit the hospital to review measures it took to fix the problems, but Villanueva did not know when that would be.

A committee was appointed to look at the quality and safety infrastructure within the massive health care system, board members said last week.


Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.