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Territorial Hospital Board Hears JFL Plan of Correction

The Territorial Hospital Board met Thursday on St. Croix to learn about a plan of correction to avoid the decertification of the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

The CMS termination is scheduled for February if deficiencies are not corrected to the satisfaction of the federal insurance agency.

The board convened with Territorial Board Chairman Nellon Bowry announcing it was a one-item agenda to hear about the plan of correction due to CMS on Friday.

Richard Evangelista, JFL’s acting chief executive officer, gave an overview of the 12-page letter from CMS received Nov. 29 and listed steps being taken by the hospital to avoid decertification.

“There is no threat of immediate termination – quote – no suggestions for a systems improvement agreement. Rather CMS simply wants the hospital’s plan of correction to address the deficiencies noted,” Evangelista said.

Evangelista’s steps taken to continue receiving reimbursements by CMS for Medicare and Medicaid services to local patients included a meeting of board members and hospital administrators to discuss issues and to reach out to Gov. Kenneth Mapp and the 31st Legislature for funding to comply with CMS.

The JFL board also approved contracts with Greeley Consultants and the Ropes and Gray legal firm to assist crafting and implementing the plan of correction. Both firms are were retained in 2014 and are familiar with the hospital’s problems. Up to $2 million was allocated for third party consultants during decertification threat by CMS that year.

Evangelista said another step towards compliance was to contract an engineering firm to review and recommend repairs and equipment replacement for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

Finally Evangelista repeated that the plan of correction would be submitted by the Friday deadline.

The board adjourned into executive session for almost two hours. Reporting after the meeting, Board Secretary Maria Tankenson-Hodge said they discussed matters relating to the plan of correction but “no action was taken.”

The draft plan of corrections was not released to the public.

Bowry said the territorial board was “satisfied” with the plan of correction and is confident the deadline will be met. He said a vote on the plan of correction was not necessary by the board.

“You have the territorial board’s support,” Bowry said.

Evangelista said the plan of correction will be released to the public after it has been sent to CMS on Friday.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s complaints, outlined in 12 pages, focused on the HVAC system and identified trouble spots throughout the facility that included leaking, water stained ceiling tiles, standing water on the floor, and mold and mildew. Affected areas included the surgical, medical, post partum, emergency and pediatric units, the main entry hall and other areas.

Problems with the structure of the 30-year-old facility are nothing new and the hospital board and administration has been in discussions with the governor and members of the Senate for months.

“We’ve known the issue was mounting and discussed with the governor many times that we need money,” said Troy de Chabert-Schuster, former board president, after the Nov. 29 board meeting, when the CMS document was received. The governor “was doing his best but it was not fast enough.”

At that last meeting, board members were under the impression $5 million was “on its way” to begin corrective measures that include the HVAC system and repairs to the plumbing that has closed the JFL cafeteria.

After the Nov. 29 meeting, Government House released a statement asking the Legislature to act on Mapp’s request for a capital projects plan and to increase the amount for hospital repairs from $10 million to as much as $20 million.

On Dec. 2, the Senate Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee met and approved a measure to allow hospital staff to serve on the board. However, no action was taken to fund the hospital.

Previously only physicians and nurses not affiliated with JFL were allowed to serve on the board. During the 2014 termination threat, CMS listed the lack of board oversight among the deficiencies. During that time – for around a year – JFL lacked a board quorum.

Board members at the meeting were Bowry and Aracelis Bermudez-Walcott, with Health Commissioner Michelle Davis, Tankenson-Hodge, Gretta Hart-Hyndman and Vera Felu joining by phone. Juel Molloy, representing Mapp, also participated by phone.

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