Hospitals Could See Funding Cuts Due to Infections 

Six hospitals in Maine, including three in Eastern and Central Maine could see cuts in federal funding.

It’s all due to high rates of infection and injury among patients.

Five years ago, Kathy Day of Bangor lost her father to a bacterial infection in a hospital.

“In late 2008 he contracted MRSA pneumonia in a small Maine hospital when he was rehabilitating from a minor ankle fracture. He suffered a great deal, lost about a third of his body weight, and then on January 9th he died,” said Day.

MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant staph infection which most often occurs in people who’ve been in hospitals or other health care settings.

Now the federal government has identified 761 hospitals nationwide that could lose 1 percent of Medicare funding starting in October due in part to patient infection.

On the list in our area are Maine General Medical Center in Augusta, Inland Hospital in Waterville and Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

So why were these hospitals targeted?

“There are several things. There’s infections, there’s blood stream infections, there’s urinary tract infections in hospitalized patients who have a catheter in their bladder. There’s also a set of other quality measures that relate to complications from surgery,” said Dr. Robert Thompson, Chief Medical Officer at Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, which runs Inland and EMMC.

I asked Thompason if he’s had any issues with MRSA at any of these hospitals recently.

“All hospitals have a certain rate of organisms that are resistant to antibiotics,” said Thompson.

Thompson says it’s hard to estimate the exact impact of potential cuts.

“For inland hospital it would be in the tens of thousands, for EMMC it could be up to a few hundred thousand,” said Thompson.

Day, a former nurse at EMMC, now a patient safety advocate, hopes hitting hospitals where it hurts will make a difference.

“I think it’s about time. I think it’s going to take financial incentives to motivate hospitals to make the improvements that they need to make to stop these things from happening,” said Day.

She says increased handwashing is one of the simplest solutions.

But Thompson says incidences of infection and injury are actually on the decline.

“We don’t want them to happen, but we do learn from each one as we do,” said Thompson.

CORRECTION: This story originally, and incorrectly, stated that Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems runs Maine General Medical Center, Inland Hospital and Eastern Maine Medical Center. EMHS does run Inland and EMMC, but does not run Maine General.