Long Term Care Hospitals Face Senate Scrutiny

Last week, the US Senate Finance Committee investigated the diabetes drug Avandia and its safety issues as it is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks. This week, the powerful committee has focused on long term care hospitals and their allegedly substandard medical care. The issue was the subject of an article in the NY Times today. The Times headline read, “Senate Panel to Investigate Deaths at Long-Term Care Facilities”.

The Senate committee has focused its investigation on one particular long-term care company which runs 89 such facilities across the country. On Monday of this week, two members of the committee sent Select Medical Corporation a letter demanding answers concerning staffing levels and quality of medical care at its facilities. An earlier NY Times article focused attention on these hospitals that treat 200,000 seriously ill patients each year. According to the Times, the facilities rarely have full-time physicians on staff. The Times cited one example of a dying patient whose heart monitor beeped for 77 minutes before a nurse responded.

According to today’s Times’ article, “The letter also requests that Select disclose information about its discharge policies. Former employees have also said that the company presses to keep patients for 25 days and then discharge them almost immediately, because patients are most profitable if they stay exactly 25 days under government reimbursement rules. At some Select hospitals, the 25th day is called the “magic day,” ex-employees say.”

This is a particularly stark example of healthcare gone wrong in this country. It’s an example, if the allegations are true, of healthcare companies placing profits over patients.