By Dr. Scott Noren

Do you have a point you’d like to make or an issue you feel strongly about? Submit a letter to the editor or a guest column.

I n 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospital Organizations was accrediting hospitals that had major violations.

The Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee had launched an investigation to ask JCAHO and other accrediting bodies for paper trails to CMS and their own paperwork concerning performance reviews, applications for Medicare accreditation and more.

They were getting reports that JCAHO was sweeping substandard care events and other related items under the rug while still accrediting these health care facilities.

The committee letters were also sent to other health care quality improvement organizations.

These issues were going on since 2015, and the committee addressed problems with CMS delegating the oversight of hospitals to JCAHO and others and being substandard in providing proper patient safety standards.

The latest letters and meetings were going on in the March/April 2018 time frame; since that time, I had a problem with my local hospital “dumping” patients on my clinic when its staff surgeons would not see these patients, potentially delaying patient care.

I reported this to the hospital; no action was taken, and there was no written or verbal contact in regards to this issue from them to my clinic.

I then reported this issue in writing here in Upstate New York to JCAHO on July 12, 2018. I have yet as of the writing of this letter, to receive any written or verbal addressing of this matter by JCAHO, and the potential for patient harm still exists. I called multiple times to JCAHO asking for a disposition, and they failed to respond.

At this point, I searched the web to see if Congress had addressed this issue as I stated above and found two articles, which I paraphrased above on the committee’s concern for a lack of proper hospital oversight by CMS and the accrediting bodies they delegated this job to.

I contacted my congressman, Tom Reed, but have yet to hear back from his office.

The member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that I next contacted multiple times for response was Congressman Greg Walden, R-Oregon.

His office ignored my repeated requests for them to contact JCAHO and ask that they respond to my complaint, which they are required to do. His office also asked me to contact my congressman, which I did as stated.

The level of lack of transparency by Congressman Walden’s office as well as the lack of action exemplifies the multiple layers of “bean counter” incompetence by Congress, CMS and JCAHO on making sure these hospitals are doing what they need to do to ensure patient safety.

It’s one thing to have a problem, figure out even non-punitively how to respond and make things right again; it’s another to blow off health care providers like myself or even nonhealth care providers who make complaints to these entities but never get addressed or mitigated.

Fraud, waste and abuse is rampant in the bog of Washington, D.C., and just like the VA had its ills, so does CMS and congressional members who lose track of the need to be hands-on when it comes to unaddressed complaints to JCAHO, CMS and the rest of these bodies.

It seems like CMS is too busy making annoying and useless rules to make health care providers like mine more miserable yet not addressing the core issues they need to, such as adequate provider reimbursement rates, which Congress is equally culpable of.

Call your congressional member if you are so motivated and ask them what they are doing to get better hospital oversight to prevent patient safety mishaps.

— Dr. Scott Noren is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Ithaca, New York.

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