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Fool me twice, shame on me.

Mr. Mike Poore, CHS, Community Health System’s replacement CEO for Lutheran Hospital has been quoted as saying “it will take time to build trust.” Lutheran doctors confirm that this was said, and certainly time is a factor. And so, what experiences lend hope that CHS promises might be believed? Are there events in the CHS family of owned-hospitals that might give us a clue?

Well, maybe. As reported yesterday, CHS was at the center of a horror story in Florida. The short version: In 2014, Venice Regional Bayfront Health was bought by CHS. The Venice Herald Tribune reported (http://www.heraldtribune.com/…/unbelievable-problems-at-ven…), “Last year, the hospital was found to have the highest infection rates in Florida, leading the government to cut Medicare reimbursements. This year, the founding surgeon at the heart center left to take a job at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.” And this month (July 2015), the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration detailed 13 violations of state and federal law in how the hospital handled a sewage leak on the second-floor post-surgical orthopedic wing. The scathing report cited rats in the ceiling and sewage leaking into rooms from which patients were not removed.”

CHS had owned the property for many months. Not a good sign. Should they be excused for not fixing things up immediately? Well, maybe a little bit. Maybe they did not even know about the problem. Well maybe not.

Bayfront patient Don Storch said in a blog post published in March 2016 (https://donstorch.com/venice-fl-bayfront-regional-health-f…/), “Honesty builds credibility yet after some two years of sewage leakage at this 60-year-old facility, subjecting patients to potential infections, it once again failed to disclose another incident on Feb. 22, 2016, which it reported to the Florida State Health Department, but not the community it serves. This was seven days after I had an invasive procedure on an out-patient basis at this hospital. I had previously heard of the negative publicity at this hospital and inquired of my health care providers about the safety at this facility and was assured that they had turned their act around as a result of government investigations and controls.”

According to Storch, Bob Hite, spokesman for CHS, insisted that the new leak was “not unlike what a homeowner or guest in a hotel might experience. There was no interruption to inpatient care.” But, says Storch: “There was no reference to the leakage from the ceiling, as though it was not referenced to the State Department in the hospital’s letter, nor the cardiac patient that had to be removed from his room.”

What are we to believe? At best, we have an unhappy patient in Storch, who feels that a serious incident was minimized. At worst, we have…well, sewage and maybe the rats are gone.

Looking at the Medicare Compare rankings for Bayfront (https://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/profile.html…), we find that on most issues, it is average. However, it is in the lower 40%, two stars, for patients who answer “Patients who reported that their room and bathroom were ‘Always’ clean.”All eleven answers to questions about patient experience (closely related to nurse staffing levels) were below both Florida and national averages.

Said Storch, “Venice Regional Hospital has not only failed crisis management 101, it has let down the community it pledged to serve by not being honest.”

What does this mean to Fort Wayne, Lutheran Health Network, and–in particular –Lutheran Hospital, previously described as “dirty, dingy . . .?” Of course, you should ask your doctor and your Lutheran nurse. To me, it suggests that CHS must be watched carefully to see if it will deliver on its promises, and not over six long years, but immediately for the truly critical things–like Mindray patient monitors that have been reported to have failed (see https://www.fda.gov/…/Enf…/WarningLetters/2012/ucm332838.htm). Are Mindray Monitors fixable? How many remain at Lutheran? What do physicians and nurses say about their reliability?

And other things, like nursing shortages that endanger patients. Those remedies cannot wait.