Lawmakers question safety of HCA Florida hospital

Two lawmakers are seeking information from the CEO of an HCA Florida hospital about its care quality and working conditions after a news report with troubling allegations. 

In February, NBC News reported physicians' allegations of unsanitary and unsafe conditions at 320-bed HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital in Hudson, Fla. Four physicians told the news outlet that care quality worsened since 2021, when HCA allegedly reduced staff and hired contract workers at the hospital. The report contained allegations of unsanitary instruments, inadequate monitoring of ICU patients, a crowded emergency department and anesthesiology errors that resulted in patients waking up while in surgery. 

On March 20, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, R-Fla., submitted a letter with eight questions to Regina Temple, PhD, CEO of HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital. The lawakers refer to the NBC News report, as well as deficiencies identified by Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration. 

"In its overall star rating systems for hospital quality, [CMS] designated Bayonet Point as one star out of five," Mr. Rubio and Mr. Bilirakis wrote. "Notably, your staff expressed that the quality of care at HCA has declined and a number of sentinel events have occurred since 2021, which is when the hospital began cutting staff and hiring contract workers. While Bayonet Point recently celebrated its investment in 102 new beds, photos of existing facilities show leaks from the ceiling, cockroaches in operating rooms, oxygen equipment bound by scotch tape and backed up sinks filled with blood."

Dr. Temple was asked to address the following eight questions with a "prompt response": 

  1. How does HCA currently ensure health and safety standards are met for patients and staff? 
  2. What aspects of the hospital's operations are prioritized when budgeting for a fiscal year? How much of your hospital's budget is devoted to patient safety? 
  3. What is the hospital's current process for addressing concerns from staff? What is the average time that it takes for concerns to be addressed? 
  4. What is being done to address the allegations of poor working conditions mentioned in the NBC report from February 15? 
  5. What corrective actions have been taken to address AHCA's previously identified deficiencies with patient safety? 
  6. How does HCA ensure that all personnel, including those who are hired by contractors, are meeting the hospital's health and safety standards? 
  7. How does HCA ensure that an appropriate provider to patient ratio is maintained? 
  8. What actions do you plan to take to increase the CMS Overall Star Ratings score of one star? 

HCA Healthcare shared the following statement with Becker's about the lawmakers' inquiry: 

"We are aware of the letter and will be providing a detailed response to Senator Rubio and Congressman Bilirakis.

"We are glad these Members have asked us about this because the allegations made in the NBC News report are misleading and they paint a false picture of Bayonet Point. We are proud of the quality care provided there and welcome the chance to share information with Senator Rubio and Congressman Bilirakis. 

"Last month, NBC News published a story that portrays patient care at Bayonet Point Hospital in an unflattering light. We were asked to respond to a long list of mostly broad claims attributed to a physician who the Hospital Board decided not to reinstate as Chief of Staff because of repeated instances of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior. Our hospital provided NBC News details and background information, including that our hospital was in good standing with all regulatory and accrediting bodies, including Florida's Agency for Healthcare Administration. 

"Recently, The Joint Commission, the primary accrediting agency for U.S. hospitals, and AHCA conducted surveys at our hospital, and each resulted in no adverse findings. If the claims made in the NBC report were accurate, the agencies would have made similar findings. They did not. 

"We appreciate the review and guidance from the regulatory agencies, and we take quality issues very seriously no matter who raises them. Even though the claims made by the physician interviewed for the story are unfounded, we are continuously looking for ways to improve. We rely on feedback from our physicians, and when issues are validated we take necessary action. 

"Our commitment to safety is reflected in the recognition we have received from third party organizations including a Leapfrog A Safety Grade in the most recent release and being a Healthgrades Patient Safety Award winner in 2022. In the Spring 2022 Physician Engagement Survey at HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital, nearly 80 percent of physicians rated the hospital an excellent or very good place to practice." 

Dr. Temple was named CEO of the hospital in October 2019. She previously served as president of Mission Trail Baptist Hospital in San Antonio, which is now owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare. 

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