- HCA Healthcare has been granted more time to respond to North Carolina’s lawsuit alleging the for-profit hospital operator failed to provide adequate emergency and cancer care at Mission Health.
- HCA acquired Mission in 2019. Since then, conditions have deteriorated at Asheville-based Mission, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein alleged in a complaint filed in December. Patients often experienced hours-long wait times, were treated in open areas and were exposed to unhygienic conditions, according to the complaint.
- Previously, HCA had until Jan. 16 to respond to the suit. However, the Nashville-based system filed for an extension, citing the complaint’s length. On Thursday, the North Carolina Business Court extended HCA’s deadline to Feb. 13.
HCA purchased the five-hospital Western North Carolina system in 2019 for $1.5 billion. As part of the deal, HCA agreed to preserve Mission’s medical services, and to expand them for at least ten years following the sale.
However, the North Carolina Department of Justice has received more than 500 complaints about care at HCA facilities across the state since the deal, Stein’s office said in December.
HCA’s counsel has dismissed Stein’s claims, with a spokesperson telling Healthcare Dive in December that the system intends to “defend against the lawsuit vigorously.”
However, provider and regulatory criticism of care at Mission has only ramped up.
In December, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services warned Mission that it’s at risk of losing Medicare and Medicaid funding. The department said deficiencies in care have put patients’ health and safety in “immediate jeopardy,” according to reporting from the Asheville Watchdog.
The NCDHHS sent a letter to Mission CEO Chad Patrick citing nine incidents over 19 months where the hospital failed to provide a safe environment for emergency department patients.
“ED nursing staff failed to assess, monitor and evaluate patients to identify and respond to changes in patient conditions,” the letter said. “The hospital staff failed to ensure qualified staff were available to provide care and treatment for patients who arrived in the ED. The cumulative effects of these practices resulted in an unsafe environment for ED patients.”
The investigation, which occurred during November and December of last year, is not connected to the AG’s lawsuit, the Asheville Watchdog reported.