The new CEO of Grady Memorial Hospital is coming from a Dallas facility that recently has been under intense federal scrutiny for patient safety...

The new CEO of Grady Memorial Hospital is coming from a Dallas facility that recently has been under intense federal scrutiny for patient safety problems.

A federal agency, after an inspection in July, found conditions at Parkland Memorial Hospital that were an “immediate and serious threat’’ to patient health and safety.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in an Aug. 9 letter, notified the 675-bed Texas hospital of violations, placing the facility in “immediate jeopardy’’ of losing its ability to participate in the federal Medicare program.

John Haupert, Parkland’s current chief operating officer, has been selected by the Grady corporate board to be the CEO. He starts his tenure at Grady in October.

A Grady spokesman said the board was not aware of the federal findings at Parkland when it chose Haupert to be the finalist for the Atlanta safety-net hospital’s top job in July. The corporate board gave him final approval on Aug. 8.

“The current CMS situation at Parkland in no way gives us any reason to question the choice of John as CEO,’’ said the Grady spokesman, Matt Gove. “We look forward to him getting here in October.’’

Haupert could not be reached for comment Wednesday at Parkland, where he still works. Parkland said it is not giving any media interviews on the CMS survey findings.

When picked by the Grady board as its CEO finalist July 20, Haupert said he regretted leaving the Dallas County hospital, but added that his departure had nothing to do with ongoing investigations into problems involving patient care at Parkland, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The newspaper said that at the time, Parkland was undergoing an extensive federal survey of patient safety, which was triggered by the February death of a confined psychiatric patient.

After the CMS letter to Parkland on the safety violations, agency spokesman Bob Moos said, according to an NBC affiliate in Dallas, “Two Parkland violations relating to infection control and emergency care issues are so serious that they triggered ‘immediate jeopardy’ status. That is the most severe finding we can have in a hospital, and it requires immediate attention.”

An “immediate jeopardy” ruling is relatively rare in the hospital world, but while it is serious, it almost never results in a federal cutoff of funds.

Parkland’s CEO, Dr. Ron Anderson, said in a recent statement that the hospital is drafting a plan to correct the problems, and will turn it in by Aug. 20.

“We acknowledge the seriousness of this notification,’’ Anderson said in the statement. “We have a tremendous responsibility to get this right – to address the deficiencies identified by CMS – and to do so as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

“It is our obligation to the Dallas community and, most importantly, to our patients to provide care that is safe, of high quality and consistent with all state and federal regulations. Safe, quality patient care is our top priority.’’

“Some problems were already known to us. We understand them and have already been working on them,’’ Anderson said.

When Haupert starts work in Atlanta, he will be leading a hospital whose financial status has recently deteriorated. Grady’s losses this year could reach $20 million or more.

The Grady system announced in June that it is cutting 120 jobs. It said the cuts were necessary because of decreased state and county funding; a weak economy with high unemployment; and rising costs of supplies, utilities, pharmaceuticals and labor.

Meanwhile, the 953-bed Atlanta hospital continues to serve a huge number of uninsured patients, providing more than $200 million in indigent care annually.


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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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