Thursday, September 02, 2004

St. Francis Hospital appeals Thomas Memorial Hospital cardiac catheterization lab certificate of need

An article from today's Charleston Gazette discusses the filing of an appeal to the Circuit Court of Kanwaha County over the certificate of need decision issued by the West Virginia Health Care Authority to allow Thomas Memorial Hospital to construct and operate a $2.5M cath lab.

Below is a copy of the full article:

By John Heys
Staff writer

Administrators at St. Francis Hospital have taken their concerns about a new heart catheterization lab at Thomas Memorial Hospital to Kanawha County Circuit Court.

St. Francis filed an appeal Tuesday of a state Health Care Authority decision, which allowed Thomas Hospital to go forward with a $2.5 million lab to diagnose patient’s heart problems.

Bob Gray, a Thomas vice president, said the South Charleston hospital would continue with plans to open its catheterization lab, currently being built on the first floor of the facility’s new medical office building.

“This is all part of the appeal process,” Gray said. “I feel pretty confident we’ll prevail.”

State regulators approved Thomas’ proposal in February despite the concerns of St. Francis and Charleston Area Medical Center, which already have catheterization labs.

After the authority approved Thomas’ plan, the state’s Office of Judges upheld the decision following an earlier appeal by St. Francis. If the authority’s decision is upheld again, St. Francis can take their case to the state Supreme Court.

The hospital, which is owned by the Hospital Corporation of America, based in Nashville, Tenn., is also challenging the authority’s revised standards for heart catheterization labs.

The appeal calls the new rules “arbitrary and capricious,” saying the authority did not justify allowing larger hospitals like Thomas to apply for labs without taking into account existing providers when calculating the need for a new lab.

Officials from St. Francis and CAMC have argued the area does not need another heart catheterization lab. They said Thomas’ lab would siphon off some of their patients and revenue. CAMC has six such labs. St. Francis has two.

Doctors use catheterization to look at the extent of heart disease in a patient. A thin tube is inserted into the arteries of the heart. Using a television screen, doctors can then see how the heart and blood vessels are working.

Thomas’ 5,000-square-foot lab would only diagnose patients. People will still be sent to labs at CAMC and St. Francis for stents and angioplasties.

Thomas administrators tried three times in the past 16 years to get regulatory approval for their lab. The nonprofit hospital’s fourth request, submitted in January 2003, was helped by the change in state standards.

Sonia Chambers, chairwoman of the Health Care Authority, said on Wednesday the agency’s board members stand behind their decision on both Thomas’s proposal and the revised standards.

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