Healthcare News & Insights

Oops, hospital forgot to pay fine, could owe even more now

You would think if your hospital was fined $1M, but was only asked to pay $750,000, you’d do it right away to save money, right? Well that was the intention of Parkland Memorial Hospital, in Dallas, but it didn’t quite work out that way. In fact, the hospital forgot to pay the fine.

So how could a facility forget to pay a $750,000 fine?

According to records obtained by DallasNews.com, a wire transfer was to take place through the facility’s accounting department. Unfortunately, the person who was responsible for sending the wire transfer resigned prior to the transfer being sent. After that point, it just sort of fell through the cracks.

Original fine

The original fine was issued in late August. Under the agreement with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Parkland was assessed $1 million for violations that occurred prior to June 1, 2012. If paid within 30 days, the DSHS would accept $750,000. The other $250,000 was held in abeyance subject to Parkland’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.

In addition to paying the fine, Parkland had to:

  • provide DSHS with monthly tracking reports on its progress toward returning to compliance with Medicare and Medicaid conditions of participation
  • provide DSHS with information about its Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI) Program and progress for 24 months, and
  • inform DSHS of reportable adverse events within the healthcare system within two business days of becoming aware of the event.

And while Parkland has made significant progress in complying with its Corrective Action Plan (CAP) and improving compliance and patient safety, no one seemed to notice that the fine went unpaid.

Unpaid fine

The unpaid fine was discovered in early December when Joseph Larsen, an attorney for The News, asked the DSHS questions about the fine. That lead to the discovery that the fine had yet to be paid.

Debbie Branson, chair of Parkland’s governing board, made no excuses for her facility’s oversight, but she did mention that changes would be made.

But it wasn’t only the facility that made an oversight, DSHS did, too. And Carrie Williams, DSHS’ spokeswoman said the agency is looking into how it can improve its tracking in the future to catch mistakes like this earlier.

While Williams noted that the DSHS is confident that the hospital is improving, it is still considering whether to collect all or part of the remaining $250,000.

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