ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--It appears that Community Health Systems’ (CHS) crippling debt may have a negative impact on patients in St. Petersburg, Florida. CHS, the corporate owner of Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg, could be facing a federal investigation regarding possible wavering on its commitment to provide charity care to the area’s residents.
According to its most recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, CHS received a demand this September from the Department of Justice. The request is for information regarding Bayfront Health’s involvement with Florida’s Low Income Pool Program. This program reimburses hospitals so that they are able to provide charity care to the uninsured.
News of this potential investigation by the Department of Justice comes at a time when CHS is attempting to change the terms of the lease with the city of St. Petersburg that has required an additional amount of charity care and assistance. Currently, a local non-profit organization holds a minority stake in Bayfront Health including half of the seats on the hospital board. This agreement, which has been in effect since 2013, gives the community a voice (and notice) in the operations of the hospital. Now CHS is attempting to undo the agreement including buying the non-profit’s stake. Any changes to the terms need approval from the St. Petersburg City Council as they hold the lease to the land.
City Council and the public questions CHS' move between the company’s financial instability and the Department of Justice inquiry, members of the City Council and public have raised concerns about CHS’ plan and have raised questions about charity care.
CHS ended the third quarter of 2017 with a net loss of $110 million on revenues of $3.67 billion. This is seriously down from last year’s report when the company reported a net loss of $79 million on revenues of $4.38 billion. CHS also has announced that it will continue to attempt to sell more hospitals and questions have been raised about what this means for Bayfront Health.
“Everything about this deal says proceed with extreme caution. Hospital officials knew about the federal subpoena when they pitched this plan to the City Council in October but failed to mention it,” according to a recent editorial laying out details of the concern.
RNs from National Nurses United have met with city council members and community leaders to voice concern for patients in the area and suggest that patient care outcomes and staffing levels be made available to the public as part of any new agreement. “It is our experience that CHS will attempt to cut corners and make decisions that are not in the best interest of patients, nurses, doctors, and the community. We urge the Council to maintain ownership of Bayfront, keep charity care intact, and make information available to the public,” said Jennifer Holm, RN from Watsonville Community Hospital.
The St. Petersburg City Council will be taking up this issue on December 7.