Gov. John deJongh Jr. criticized Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital leadership in a statement Friday for wasting time at their recent board meeting arguing the semantics of how their plan was rejected instead of dealing with pressing hospital oversight and tightening operations.
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services last week gave the hospital a temporary reprieve, after issuing a damning report in September and announcing it would decertify the hospital effective Oct. 9. (See Related Links below)
DeJongh was responding to media reports that hospital Chief Executive Officer Kendall Griffith and board members spent time during their Oct. 8 meeting disputing deJongh’s report that "CMS rejected the corrective action plan that had been presented at a meeting in Maryland on Friday last week and instead told the hospital’s leadership that it must get to work on making vast improvements to several aspects of its operations including quality of patient care.”
Griffith said the report was not technically rejected because CMS had not asked for a report, but wanted to see action. Board members agreed that action, rather than plans, is what is needed.
"We came out of that meeting with the understanding that what CMS wants from us is not another bundle of policies or plans. What they want to see is the commitment we have as a people — the Virgin Islands community. How we plan to come together to affect change,” JFL Board Chairman Anthony Ricketts said at the meeting.
In his statement Friday, deJongh said the hospital’s leadership and district board have more important priorities than spending time trying to assess what they consider blame on the interpretation of a letter from their federal regulator, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS. DeJongh then interpreted the letter and assessed responsibility.
“The October 6th letter from CMS was direct and clear — in one paragraph it stated we did not request a Plan of Correction and in another paragraph it says we do not accept it. To not accept is to reject. There is no other way for any of us to spin it, because if the hospital’s plan had been accepted, we would undoubtedly be having a different conversation. So, I suggest we just accept the letter at its face value," deJongh said.
"What is clear, however, in the October 6th correspondence is that CMS saw quite a bit of non-compliance on past submissions of both corrective action plans and systems improvement agreements. Admittedly, it also witnessed a genuine commitment to achieve an improved quality of care on the part of the current leadership and I believe that is an underlying reason for CMS granting the extension,” deJongh said.
DeJongh complained that the hospital was giving the public the impression "the government, of which it is a part, does not provide the required resources when in fact over the last several years, from meeting hospital payroll and then writing-off this obligation, to paying the hospitals’ utility bills and providing additional funding as most recently exhibited, the government has demonstrated unwavering support."
He said it was "unsettling" that despite strong support from his office, the delegate to Congress, the territorial board and the Legislature, "that its leadership and district board members are continuing to play a blame game.”
DeJongh closed his statement saying he remains optimistic that the board and the hospital leadership can get down to the business of addressing the numerous shortcomings cited by CMS and return the JFL Hospital to a health care facility that will provide basic quality medical care for the residents of St. Croix.