hospitals

The federal government is starting to crack down on the nation's hospitals for not reporting complete COVID-19 data into a federal data collection system.

Updated Friday 2:15 p.m. ET to include a comment from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The federal government is preparing to crack down aggressively on hospitals for not reporting complete COVID-19 data daily into a federal data system, according to internal documents obtained by NPR.

David Usher, chief financial officer for a 12-bed rural hospital in western Kansas, is sitting on $1.7 million he's scared to spend.

The money lent from the federal government is meant to help hospitals and other health care providers weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet some hospital administrators have called it a payday loan program that is now brutally due for repayment at a time when the institutions still need help.

Victor Coronado felt lightheaded one morning last month when he stood up to grab an iced tea. The right side of his body suddenly felt heavy. He heard himself slur his words. "That's when I knew I was going to have a stroke," he recalls.

Coronado was rushed to Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, the hospital nearest his home on Chicago's South Side. Doctors there pumped medicine into his veins to break up the clot that had traveled to his brain.

Nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., were on edge as early as March, when patients with COVID-19 began to show up in areas of the hospital that were not set aside to care for them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had advised hospitals to isolate COVID-19 patients to limit staff's exposure and help conserve high-level personal protective equipment that's been in short supply.

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Oklahoma has been in a nursing shortage for decades, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. StateImpact’s Catherine Sweeney reports on the unique strain COVID-19 has placed on hospital nursing teams.

Earlier this month, when the Trump administration told hospitals to send crucial data about coronavirus cases and intensive care capacity to a new online system, it promised the change would be worth it. The data would be more complete and transparent and an improvement over the old platform run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, administration officials said.

Instead, the public data hub created under the new system is updated erratically and is rife with inconsistencies and errors, data analysts say.

Larry Pichon called an ambulance to take his wife, Judy, to a hospital in Lake Charles, in southwest Louisiana, on the morning of July 13. He'd had to do this before.

She had a rare autoimmune disease — granulomatosis with polyangiitis, which causes inflammation of blood vessels and can be particularly damaging for the lungs and kidneys. It wasn't uncommon for Judy to make a trip to the emergency room.

"When she got in the ambulance to go was the last time I saw her, and that was around nine o'clock," Larry remembered.

Provided

Eight rural hospitals in Oklahoma have closed in the last decade, the third highest rate of rural hospital closures in the country. But, the recent vote to expand Medicaid could provide rural hospitals with a much needed financial boost.

Just as the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 approaches new highs in some parts of the country, hospital data in Kansas and Missouri is suddenly incomplete or missing.

The Missouri Hospital Association reports that it no longer has access to the data it uses to guide statewide coronavirus planning, and the Kansas Hospital Association says its hospital data reports may be delayed.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration directed hospitals to change how they report data to the federal government and how that data will be made available.

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