The Grady inspection — and other health news

Here’s an update of recent developments in Georgia health care, plus some good news for certain health facilities in the state:

** Federal inspectors left Grady Memorial Hospital last week, concluding their “unannounced’’ visit to the Atlanta safety-net hospital.

The inspection occurred after a patient fell to her death from an 11th-floor hospital window Sept. 6. That tragedy spurred the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to conduct the survey to make sure Grady meets the agency’s “conditions of participation’’ – to continue to receive funding from the government insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid.

Grady declined to comment on what the inspection team found during the visit. But the word from inside Grady is that the inspection went well from the hospital’s standpoint – that aside from the original problems of inadequate monitoring of the patient and failure to lock the window, no glaring deficiencies were found.

** A state committee, as expected, last week moved toward recommending a quasi-governmental structure for Georgia’s health insurance exchanges, one that would resemble the Georgia Lottery Corp.

The committee also agreed on separate exchanges for individuals and for businesses with 50 employees or fewer, governed by the single authority.

There was debate on the committee about whether health industry officials should be allowed to serve as members of the authority board.

“I think it’s inappropriate for members of the governing body to have a direct financial interest’’ in the business conducted by the exchange, Cindy Zeldin of the consumer group Georgians for a Healthy Future, and a member of the exchange panel, said in an interview with GHN on Monday.

But state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens disagrees, according to Tom Crawford’s account of last week’s committee meeting in the Georgia Report. He quoted Hudgens as saying that if insurance industry experts are excluded from the board, “you’ll be pooling your ignorance.”

The panel also debated whether the exchange meetings would be excluded under the state’s open meetings law.

State exchanges are required under the 2010 federal health reform law. Gov. Nathan Deal, who opposes the law and is part of a multi-state legal effort to overturn it, nevertheless appointed the committee to study ways to make health insurance more affordable in Georgia.

The panel’s report to Deal is due Dec. 15.

** The new Department of Public Health board has approved the issuing of $500,000 in state bonds to pay for repairs to three public health facilities: a district office in Waycross, a regional lab in Albany, and the Skyland regional office in Atlanta.

The board also elected Gary Nelson, who is president of the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, as its chairman and Dr. Mitch Rodriguez, a neonatologist in Macon, as its secretary.

** The federal government announced that eight community health centers in Georgia – among about 500 nationally — will receive extra funding over three years to improve services to Medicare patients.

Health centers will use this funds to expand their hours, make same-day appointments and accommodate patients in urgent need of care, said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The improved payment system will reward clinics for such services as helping patients manage chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, HHS said.

The health centers in Georgia receiving the extra money are Albany Area Primary Care, Newton; Community Health Care Systems, Tennille; First Choice Primary, Inc., Macon; Georgia Mountains Health Services, Morganton; Primary Care of Southwest Georgia, Blakely; Southwest Georgia Health Care, Cordele; Tender Care Clinic Inc., Greensboro; and West End Medical Centers Inc., Atlanta.