Calling the situation at the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital "heart wrenching," Delegate Donna M. Christensen on Monday said two federal departments may be able to provide some of the help needed to keep the hospital afloat.
Christensen made the comments in a news release Monday.
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare announced last week it would pull the hospital’s certification to take part in the Medicare program, which funds hospital care for the elderly who have no insurance, as well as the Medicaid program. Together the two federal programs account for a healthy percentage of the JFL budget, raising the fear that the hospital might not be able to keep its doors open.
“I spoke to the U.S. Department of Interior Insular Affairs officials and they are prepared to give the hospital some of the funding it needs,” Christensen said. “It is my hope that this will assure CMS that Luis Hospital will get the money they need to correct immediate problems and put them on a path to long-term solutions,” she said.
“I am also calling U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to ask that they treat this as the emergency that it is,” Christensen said Monday. “St. Croix has one hospital. People have no other alternatives. They cannot drive to another county or state to seek care.”
Christensen said she was also asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prioritize JFL’s High Energy Cost grant request, which would help the hospital cut its energy bills.
In her news release, Christensen said that despite criticisms leveled at the hospital, most patients get good care from a caring and competent staff.
“While the issues outlined in the report must be addressed, I believe that the Luis Hospital staff is committed to the community that they serve and they, more than anyone else, want to see the problems fixed.”
The CMS report provided a litany of cases from 2014 and 2013 in which poor care harmed patients and in some cases contributed to patient death. (See link below.)
Prior to departing for Washington, D.C., to convene a series of meetings in the hope of preventing the financial insolvency of St. Croix’s only hospital, Christensen urged Gov. John deJongh Jr. to declare a state of emergency over the hospital issues.
After meeting with CMS officials last week, Christensen said, the agency was open to discussions that may avert the loss of certification.
Christensen, who once was medical director of the hospital, urged JFL officials to appeal the decision and request a re-audit.
Since 2011, Christensen and her staff have had more than a half dozen meetings and conference calls with senior leadership from CMS to identify effective short- and long-term solutions. She played an active role in working with CMS to delay previous plans to terminate Medicare and Medicaid payments to the hospital and was talking with leadership at CMS Monday to explore options. The delegate’s news release said she has identified options that she will ask CMS to consider in order to stall the current plans to terminate the Medicare agreement with the hospital.
Christensen said she will continue to impress upon CMS that the territory’s most vulnerable residents – seniors – will be affected if the Medicare agreement is terminated. Christensen also told CMS the decision would undercut the entire V.I. health care system.