Earlier this month, one of the biggest hospices in the United States, San Diego Hospice, pled for financial help when it filed for bankruptcy in the wake of a federal investigation into the facility's general health care practices. Specifically, the hospice's tendency to provide treatment to patients who are expected to live more than six months was called into question. In its attempts to continue operating, San Diego Hospice has taken drastic measures since filing for bankruptcy. In less than a month, the facility's workforce has been dramatically reduced, as has the facility's overall patient load.
The practices of San Diego Hospice that ultimately led to a federal investigation of the facility include suspected treatment of many patients whose life expectancy was failed to be documented by the doctors who work at the facility. The result? Treating thousands of patients at a time, some of whom reportedly "lingered" at the facility for years, despite Medicare's strict guidelines which stated that patients should only be treated if they have six months or less left to live. The scrutiny under which the facility was brought was enough to financially deteriorate it, thus resulting in the ultimate bankruptcy plea that was filed earlier this month.
Now, the same facility that used to house thousands of ailing patients is down to approximately 600 patients. In addition to this cut, hundreds of workers at the facility have reportedly been laid off as a result of the facility's bankruptcy, which brought on substantial amounts of bad publicity along with the need to more strictly comply with the Medicare program's regulations. It is the hope of San Diego Hospice that its recent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy will provide the facility with the financial protection it needs in order to remain open and operating. In the meantime, other healthcare facilities have stepped in to help.
Scripps Health, which currently serves up to 500,000 patients on an annual basis has already bought a small local hospice in the area in order to ease the situation at hand. The healthcare facility is now offering hospice care to individuals who need it, many of whom might otherwise have turned to San Diego Hospice for the medical care they need. In fact, the CEO of Scripps Health has expressed his professional belief that more and more hospitals will soon be expected to take similar actions as those that his chain recently took. As he disclosed to Kaiser Health News, the CEO is under the impression that more hospitals will be in a position that requires them to take over hospice services as the stand-alone hospice facilities continue to face financial difficulties.
The hardships faced by San Diego Hospice are not unlike those being faced by many more hospice facilities throughout the country. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice reports that an increasing number of hospice healthcare facilities are experiencing financial challenges as a result of the federal attention being paid to these facilities. Specifically, these hospice programs are being asked to devote more resources than feasibly possible, all for the sake of guaranteeing their compliance with the rules that have been established by Medicare.
Reports from the National Association for Home Care & Hospice go so far as to numerically display the ways in which hospice facilities are struggling across the board. According to the Association's findings, for the 2012-2013 fiscal year hospices haven't been receiving the annual increases that they are used to; rather than seeing a 2.5-3% increase, they are instead only being given about a 0.9% increase. The financial tightening experienced by hospice facilities nationwide certainly seems to be taking its toll, as evidenced by San Diego Hospice's recent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
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