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CMS Certifies Juan F. Luis Hospital

After 15 months of striving to correct deficiencies at the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital and Medical Center, the hospital board learned Monday that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has confirmed the facility’s compliance and continued accreditation.

Ken Okolo, the hospital’s acting chief executive officer, read a letter from CMS dated Jan. 4 confirming the decision.

“From this day on, we can claim we are out of the systems improvement agreement,” Okolo said.

In September 2014, after a CMS team conducted an inspection of the hospital, JFL officials were notified of pending decertification due to a number of deficiencies, including questionable health care practices. CMS is the federal agency that certifies medical institutions for participation in the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. Losing certification would mean loosing millions of dollars in funding.

After appeals from hospital administrators and the board, V.I. government officials and the delegate to Congress, the hospital was given until November 2014 to craft an acceptable systems improvement agreement that would outline corrective action.

After two attempts, the SIA was accepted, and the hospital had until the end of 2015 to make the necessary corrections. The required improvements included changes in governance, staffing, financial management, quality of care, training and supplies and equipment. The cost of implementing the SIA was reported to the V.I. Legislature as more than $7 million.

On Dec. 7, a CMS team arrived at the hospital and conducted a four-day inspection and on Dec. 21, JFL was notified of an SIA extension until Jan. 30, so Monday’s letter was a surprise.

The Jan. 4 letter stated, “CMS found condition-level compliance with required CoPs (conditions of participation) and we acknowledge both the efforts and progress your facility has made to accomplish that level of compliance.”

The letter was signed by William Roberson, CMS associate regional administrator.

At the same time, the letter said there were still deficiencies that will require a plan of correction by Jan. 14.

Okolo said the hospital now must sustain the corrective actions.

After the letter was read, board members Troy de Chabert-Schuster, Vera Falu, Philip Arcidi, Kimberly Jones and Joyce Heyliger gave the staff a standing ovation.

Arcidi, board treasurer, and Tim Lessing, chief financial officer, gave a brief financial report. November’s revenue was $182,000 higher than predicted and expenses were almost $80,000 less than budgeted.

The “great news,” according to Lessing is that the highest cash collection “in the history of this organization” occurred during the first two months of the fiscal year. He pointed out that the $5.4 million collected is not surplus but will be used to pay operational expenses.

Lessing and Arcidi said a financial meeting is being scheduled to plan how to manage $53 million in accounts payable that has accrued over the years. Paying back taxes into the Government Employees Retirement System is one subject to be discussed. Lessing said he doesn’t know the exact amount that is owed.

The board also voted on several items, including applications for locums tenems (temporary) staff and medical staff appointments, but did not discuss a one-year, $150,000 employment agreement for Dr. Kendall Griffith, the hospital’s previous CEO and the founding cardiologist of the V.I. Cardiac Center.

In other action, board president de Chabert-Schuster read a resolution to “cooperate and collaborate” with the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas in an effort to improved the finances of both medical facilities. He said the same resolution would be voted on by the St. Thomas and the Territorial boards. The St. Croix board approved the measure unanimously.

The first item on the board’s agenda was a presentation by Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, a health care organization with more than 900 staff physicians and seven campuses, based in Burlington, Massachusetts. The organization has physician services programs in the Middle East, Canada and Bermuda. According to Lahey chief medical officer Dr. Richard Nesto, programs are under development for Portugal and Barbados and they are interested in a partnership with JFL. The program would provide specialists for St. Croix and services at mainland facilities for St. Croix patients. He said there would be no competition between health care facilities, and Lahey physicians would only come to St. Croix when invited.


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