CMS investigation into SC hospital prompted by restrained patient's death

Greenville (S.C.) Memorial Hospital, part of Greenville Health System, will lose its Medicare contract next month unless it corrects deficiencies identified in a CMS survey that was conducted after a patient who was strapped to a gurney died of traumatic asphyxiation.

The patient, 48-year-old Donald Smith, died March 6 after a fight with a hospital security officer. Mr. Smith, who was admitted to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the arm, reportedly became combative while in the hospital, hitting a hospital security guard. After a struggle, hospital security personnel secured him face down on a gurney. Greenville County Coroner Parks Evans concluded Mr. Smith's manner of death was homicide — one person being killed by another.

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Mr. Smith's death led to a CMS investigation of Greenville Memorial Hospital. The agency determined the hospital was not in compliance with Medicare rules related to nursing services, patient rights and governing body. CMS will not make payment to the hospital for services provided to patients who are admitted after April 16 unless the problems are corrected.

In a statement on Greenville Memorial Hospital's website, Scott M. Sasser, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Greenville Health System, said, "Nearly all action plan items have already been initiated, and we feel confident that CMS will find our plan — and its implementation — satisfactory."

The hospital said its action plan for its emergency department includes increasing staffing, providing more intensive training and improving clinical documentation processes around patient care.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating Mr. Smith's death, and the security officers who were on duty at the hospital at the time of the incident no longer work at the hospital.

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