The president and C-E-O of the Ottumwa Regional Health Center says he’s “obviously relieved” to have dodged an order that would have denied the facility federal payments for Medicare patients. Medicare is the government health care program for the elderly, and Medicare accounts for about half of the Ottumwa hospital’s business. Ottumwa Regional Health Center C-E-O Lynn Olson says everyone on staff is relieved federal officials announced Thursday morning that the hospital had made the necessary changes and would not lose Medicare funding. “But as I’ve cautioned our staff, we have to remain vigilant. We have to document everything we do and that’s part of the issue that we have in this case is not documenting things that were done in the medical record appropriately,” Olson says. “It doesn’t matter if you think you gave the right care, if you don’t document it, it doesn’t matter.” Olson says there were training sessions on Monday and Tuesday of this week for all emergency room nurses and doctors about documenting treatment of patients as well as patient transfers and when a patient is sent home. “We’ve used this opportunity to re-educate both our nursing staff and our medical staff,” he says. A federal agency had questioned the way the Ottumwa hospital had treated patients who showed up in the emergency room with psychiatric problems. “As a part of their investigation, they were questioning whether people (who) had been transferred had been appropriately screened, evaluated and transferred,” Olson says. Olson’s answer has been to ensure that a licensed social worker, a psychiatric nurse or a nurse practitioner who is an expert in the care of psychiatric patients is on-call at all hours, available to come in to the E-R and help evaluate patients who have behavior or psychiatric problems. A Wapello County Supervisor said earlier this week that the hospital would have gone bankrupt if it lost Medicare funding. “Obviously it was a big concern for us,” Olson says. “We’ve never talked to anybody at the county about bankruptcy. I’m not sure where they got that term.” Emergency room doctors and nurses in the Ottumwa hospital treat about 20-thousand patients each year.
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