A new report, made by federal investigators, shows most physician-owned hospitals were not properly equipped to handle medical emergencies. This investigation took place due to the increase in physician-owned hospitals in the United States, where the number of facilities has increased from 110 in 2001, to 180 in 2007. The report shows 55 percent of the 109 physician-owned hospitals under investigation were equipped with only one bed in the Emergency Department. Fewer than a third of the hospitals in question had a doctor on-hand at all times, and 34 percent relied on dialing 911 to get help for a patient when needed. These hospitals also failed to meet requirements made by Medicare, which require a registered nurse be on duty at all times and at least one doctor be on call if none are in the hospital. The federal center for Medicare and Medicaid also state hospitals are not supposed to call 911 as a substitution for their own first-line emergency care.
Supporters of physician-owned hospitals argue the facilities not only give patients an alternative to traditional hospitals, they also offer a higher quality of care and have more nurses on hand at all times. The federal report, however, has shown physician-owned hospitals are significantly limited in their emergency care, thus resulting in many life-threatening situations. For example, at a physician-owned hospital in Portland, Oregon an eighty-eight year old woman had a heart attack after receiving an injection of pain medication due to her elective back surgery. Because no doctor was present in the facility, the nurses called 911 to have the patient taken to a nearby hospital for resuscitation where she died four days later.
A spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee said the panel will pursue enabling new patient protections and stronger laws governing physician-owned hospitals when lawmakers vote on Medicare legislation this year.