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Cary Medical among four Maine hospitals Medicare penalized

CARIBOU, Maine — Cary Medical Center is among four hospitals in the state that Medicare penalized for “poor patient safety rates,” according to a report from Maine Public. 

Additionally, York Hospital, Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston ranked “among the bottom 25 percent of U.S. hospitals for things like hospital-acquired infections, bed sores, and hip fractures.”

As a result, Medicare will reduce reimbursements to the four hospitals by one percent for the 2018 fiscal year.

Officials at Cary Medical Center have acknowledged the issue, and Community Relations Director Bill Flagg said on Dec. 29 that the presence of Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, bacterium is the primary reason for Cary’s penalty.

The bacteria thrives when a patient takes antibiotics that destroy “good germs” that protect against infections. The use of certain antibiotics particularly leaves older adults vulnerable to C. diff, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flagg said that the hospital “has been working aggressively over the past two years to improve treatment and prevent C.diff from affecting patients and the community.”

The director of community relations says that, while Cary Medical Center acknowledges that C. diff is still an issue, the data used in penalizing some 751 hospitals and more than 350 Academic Training Hospitals is dated, and fails to take Cary’s recent efforts into account.

“This is the first year we’ve actually been penalized,” Flagg said. “The numbers are so small, because we’re not a big city hospital that deals with hundreds of thousands of patients, so that can make the data look worse.”

However small the numbers may be, Flagg said it’s still a significant concern for the hospital, and they “take it very seriously.”

“Some industries are not good at reporting infections,” Flagg said. “Nobody wants to hear that, and we’re not trying to whitewash it. [C. diff] is an issue that many hospitals have.”

Dr. Regen Gallagher, Chief Medical Officer at Cary, said in a press release on Dec. 28, “We believe we are taking the right steps to address the issue.”

Since C. diff spreads via antibiotics that leave patients susceptible, Cary is focusing on an antibiotic stewardship program that reviews the use of all antibiotics.

“This is a national program supported by the American Hospital Association,” Flagg said, adding that he believes the efforts will help reduce the spread of C. diff moving forward.

While this is the Caribou hospital’s first penalty from Medicare, they have received numerous accolades in the past. Just this year, the hospital received recognition from the Breathe Easy Coalition of Maine for their efforts to address smoking and tobacco use on their campus, a Women’s Choice Award for being one of America’s Best Hospitals for Obstetrics, and an “A” grade from the Leapfrog Group for quality and safety.

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