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December 07. 2012 8:50PM

Exeter Hospital passes test to keep Medicare funding

EXETER - Exeter Hospital is no longer in jeopardy of losing Medicare funding after a federal agency found that it is now in compliance with its standards and has addressed problems discovered in the wake of the hepatitis C outbreak.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that ensures hospitals comply with standards to receive Medicare funding, notified the hospital Thursday that it now meets all conditions allowing it to continue participating in the federal program.

The determination was made after the agency conducted a follow-up survey at the hospital on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4.

Several deficiencies were found by inspectors after the hepatitis C outbreak was uncovered in May and linked to accused "serial infector" David Kwiatkowski, a former hospital radiology technician who allegedly infected 32 Exeter patients by stealing syringes filled with the painkiller fentanyl, injecting himself, and then returning the tainted syringes, which he then filled with saline, to be used on unsuspecting patients.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a report on Oct. 11 stating that the hospital wasn't compliant in several areas, including infection control, and that it failed to ensure that all areas were identified and investigated related to the hepatitis C infections.

The hospital has spent the last several months working to address the deficiencies.

Kevin Callahan, the hospital's president and CEO, said the finding "validates what patients have been saying for decades about our commitment to providing excellent care and our dedication to being a leader in the delivery of quality services."

"I wish to express my deepest gratitude to all of our dedicated staff who serve our organization with integrity and professionalism while delivering extraordinary care to our patients every day," Callahan said in a prepared statement.

The determination means the hospital will continue to fully participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs as it has every year since these programs have been in existence, the hospital said.

The hospital was given a deadline of Dec. 28 to correct problems found by the agency or face termination of its Medicare provider agreement. Without the agreement in place, the hospital would have lost a key source of funding as Medicare would no longer have paid for services provided to patients admitted on or after that date.

The two-day survey performed earlier this week involved a three-person team from the state Department of Health and Humans Services' Bureau of Licensing and Certification. The team reviewed the hospital's operations, focusing on standards applied to its governing body, infection control, medication security, quality assurance, facilities and security, the hospital said.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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