Wrong-patient surgery risks Massachusetts hospital's Medicare funding

Worcester, Mass.-based St. Vincent Hospital could lose Medicare funding Dec. 12 unless it fixes patient identification issues that led clinicians to remove a healthy kidney from a patient earlier this year.

According to the Boston Globe, a surgeon checked a patient's CT scan that showed a tumor in the left kidney, and the surgeon proceeded to remove the left kidney during surgery. However, the CT scan checked prior to surgery was for a different patient who happened to have the same name, and the left kidney that was removed was perfectly healthy.

A hospital spokesperson told the Telegram the patient's physician misidentified the procedure the patient needed before the patient was admitted to the hospital.

However, CMS and state Department of Public Health officials conducted an investigation into the wrong-patient surgery and uncovered other patient identification problems in the sample records they examined and discovered operating room computers showed patients' names but not birth dates. Additionally, the investigation report notes St. Vincent did not take corrective action even after its own internal investigation.

St. Vincent has submitted an improvement plan to CMS, but a follow-up survey has yet to be conducted, according to the Globe. If the problems are not fixed before Dec. 12, St. Vincent will be terminated from the Medicare program.

"We are working to implement enhanced safeguards as identified in the CMS survey, including additional verification steps with physicians," a hospital spokesperson told the Telegram in an emailed statement. "This was a deeply unfortunate situation and we will take all steps necessary to prevent it from happening again."

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