February 25, 2011
On Thursday, February 24, WDAF, Fox4 News aired a Problem Solvers story focusing on a billing issue concerning a trauma patient who had been brought to the hospital last summer. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of our EMS professionals in the community and the trauma team, the patient did not survive.
The patient's family contacted the media after they received a bill from the hospital. They questioned the trauma activation fee in the bill.
When the media contacted us about the situation, our patient access team immediately contacted the family and once it was determined that the family was unable to pay the bill, the hospital waived all fees. We reported to the media that we had resolved the issue with the family to their satisfaction.
Unfortunately, the reporter decided to still create a story about the trauma activation fee and spoke with both our system Vice President of Marketing/Public Relations and the hospital Director of Marketing/Public Relations. They both responded appropriately to all the reporter's questions even when the reporter tried to get them to agree or admit that the trauma activation fee was "unreasonable". Hospital spokespersons attempted to explain that the fee was not unreasonable given the resources that must be activated before a trauma patient arrives at the hospital. Unfortunately, this information was not included in the story.
In the past five years, several hospitals throughout the United States have been forced to close their doors due to the high cost of providing trauma service to the community. For certified trauma centers to be able to quickly assess and treat traumatic injury, surgeons and other physician specialists must be kept on alert 24/7, and trauma team nurses and technicians on duty must stop what they are doing and rush to prepare for the patient’s arrival. Expensive supplies must always be at the ready and high-tech equipment such as MRIs and CTs must remain open and ready to use to assess the patient’s injuries. Surgeons, nurses, technicians and all the members of a trauma team must be compensated for their time when a trauma is activated. Keeping supplies and advanced imaging equipment on standby is costly.
At Centerpoint, we work very hard to provide the highest quality care to all our patients. Our dedicated team puts saving the lives of trauma patients ahead of the financial implications of that care. In 2010, we provided life-saving care to more than 59,890 emergency patients in our community. Last year we had 1,034 trauma patients in our Emergency Department and we activated our trauma team 324 times.
Our trauma team provided the best care possible for this patient and as the story did show, we will work with any family expressing concerns regarding their hospital bill.