The July 4th Knucklehead Marathon Part Fifteen
Our fifteenth winner is Tenet Healthcare, the owner of St. Mary's Hospital in West Palm Beach. They get the award for the following.
WEST PALM BEACH — Scuba divers upset over St. Mary's Medical Center's decision to stop providing emergency hyperbaric services for decompression sickness have the county's top health official in their corner.Maybe if Tenet didn't have to pay the federal government nearly a billion dollars in fines for overbilling medicare and medicaid, they'd have plenty of money for hyperbaric services. In an area with four to five million people and people scuba diving year round, one hyperbaric chamber just won't do. Tenet Healthcare is putting dollars before human lives, and that makes them today's fifteenth Knucklehead of the Day.
Palm Beach County Health Director Jean Malecki has asked the Florida Attorney General's Office to investigate the hospital's decision. At issue is whether the change, which went into effect Saturday, violates the 2001 sale agreement in which Tenet Healthcare Corp. vowed to maintain emergency services at St. Mary's for at least 10 years.
Last week's decision was strongly criticized by the local diving community, which says it puts divers at risk. Divers suffering decompression sickness must travel to Miami or Orlando for treatment.
"Tenet's decision to discontinue hyperbaric chamber services to divers suffering from 'the bends' has serious consequences in timely access to this emergency and life-saving medical intervention for the residents and visitors who dive off our coast," Malecki wrote in a letter Monday to Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Guerra.
St. Mary's decision means divers suffering decompression sickness must travel to Miami or Orlando for treatment.
The West Palm Beach hospital cited low demand and difficulty keeping staff available around the clock as reasons for its decision. However, St. Mary's, which said it handles fewer than 50 emergency hyperbaric patients a year, will continue to offer the services to wound-care patients during normal business hours Monday through Friday.
St. Mary's spokeswoman Patti Patrick on Tuesday said the hospital is "in compliance" with the sale agreement. St. Mary's lost more than $5 million last year.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill McCollum said the agency had not yet received Malecki's letter and could not comment. The Attorney General's Office oversaw the sale of St. Mary's and Good Samaritan medical centers to Tenet.
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