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Surgical hospital granted reprieve from closure

MODESTO — Stanislaus Surgical Hospital, expected to close after state health and safety violations resulted in its removal from Medicare and Medi-Cal insurance programs, has been given notice by a federal agency that the removal from those programs has been reversed.

“SSH is confidin its safety and quality measures and are engaged in active discussions with the (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and have been given an extension of some form,” said SSH managing partner Patrick Haley. “But the timeline is not yet defined. We have a follow-up discussion (today) to determine the timeline.”

The facility, which opened in 1984, treats about 1,500 patients per month, with 60 to 80 percent of those being beneficiaries of the Medicare or Medi-Cal programs.

SSH employs 190 people — including 15 from Turlock — and was calculating layoffs for about 100 to 130 workers if it had attempted to stay open beyond April 30 without the Medicare and Medi-Cal provider agreements.

The infractions committed by SSH were detailed in two separate reports, nearly 600 pages in combined length. A letter from the CMS was sent to the hospital on April 11, stating that “the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services will terminate its Medicare Provider Agreement” effective April 30.

Violations ranged from SSH’s handling of patient emergencies, to issues with infection prevention and sterilization processes, to the use of an improper door for the endoscopy suite.

“Most of the issues were corrected before (the California Department of Public Health) concluded their survey in early February,” Haley said last week. “Yet, these issues that were corrected remain on the list of non-compliance issues.”

Stanislaus Surgical Hospital had two powerful allies in Rep. John Duarte (R-Hughson) and Rep. Tom McClintock, both of whom count portions of Stanislaus County in their districts. The legislators drafted and co-signed that was sent on April 18 to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, asking for an extension on behalf of the hospital.

One day later, the congressmen enlisted Rep. Josh Harder (D-Tracy), who formerly represented Turlock; Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno); and Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California) to sign a second letter that was addressed to Becerra, CMS acting director James Bossenmeyer, and CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, seeking a 45-day extension to the provider agreement.

Duarte, during last week’s State of the County address in Modesto, praised the hospital’s track record. 

“The Stanislaus Surgical Hospital is owned by a lot of local surgeons here; they do a great job,” said Duarte. “They’re running a great business; they’ve got a 68,000-square-foot facility serving this community; they take all payers. It’s a very important resource to this community.”