LEWISTON — For the second consecutive year, Medicare will penalize Central Maine Medical Center for its high rates of infection and patient injuries.

The news comes just weeks after CMMC’s accrediting agency said the hospital was not doing enough in its policies and procedures to prevent infections. The agency gave the hospital 30 days to improve or risk its accreditation.

CMMC President David Tupponce said Tuesday that the hospital is working on the issues.

“We’re not trying to hide the fact we still have opportunities to improve as an organization,” he said. “We’re striving toward zero harm to our patients and to our employees. That’s really what we’re striving for.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced last week that it was fining 751 hospitals for their infections and injuries. In Maine, four hospitals are being fined, including Cary Medical Center in Caribou, Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford and York Hospital.

CMMC is the only Maine hospital on the list for a second year.

Medicare began penalizing hospitals four years ago to motivate them to cut down on infections and other complications that can hurt or kill patients and cost the federal insurer money. Medicare considered infections from a variety of surgeries and procedures, including hysterectomies, urinary tract catheters and central lines.

It also looked at 10 kinds of inpatient injuries and complications, including bed sores, blood clots and sepsis.

Under the program, hospitals lose about 1 percent of their Medicare payments for the year, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how many Medicare patients that hospital sees.

Since the list was announced last week, Tupponce said, it is unclear how much money CMMC will lose.

Tupponce noted that Medicare’s infection and injury data are old – between a year and 3½ years old. That’s a common complaint among hospital leaders, who say Medicare’s old data can highlight a problem that has since been fixed or can fail to show current problems.

However, The Joint Commission, CMMC’s accrediting agency, saw problems with the hospital’s infection work as recently as three weeks ago.

In early December, the commission performed its routine reaccreditation survey at the hospital. Such surveys are done about every three years, hospital spokesman David Landau said.

The group found problems around infection control policies and procedures. According to Landau, the hospital was told it needs to work on three key areas:

The processes involved in cleaning high-risk equipment.

Using best practices to maintain a safe environment for patients and staff before, during and after care.

Encouraging and empowering staff to identify and correct situations that could put patients or staff in danger.

Landau said the hospital is working on those issues and that CMMC leaders “fully expect our accreditation to be renewed.”

He noted that the commission made re-accreditation more rigorous in 2017, causing many hospitals in Maine and New England to fall short.

Tupponce said CMMC has been working on infection control, including putting in place new protocols for urinary tract catheters and central lines.

He said the hospital will soon appoint a chief quality officer and it is working on changing the culture of the hospital to one “where safety and quality is what we’re thinking about every day, and that is where we really focus our resources, our time and our energy.”

Tupponce said the hospital is “raising the bar” and hopes to exceed expectations in the future.

“Even if we have one patient who doesn’t have an optimal outcome,” he said, “there are lessons to be learned there that we can use to continue to improve.”

In October, Leapfrog Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that tracks health care safety, quality and value, gave CMMC a grade of “B” for safety.

It found that the hospital performed poorly when it came to urinary tract infections during an ICU stay, surgical-site infection after colon surgery, patients dying from treatable complications, and staff working together to prevent errors.

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