Regional Medical Center could be cut off from federal funds

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Federal health care officials have told the Regional Medical Center in Memphis it has less than two weeks to correct problems or risk losing Medicare funding.

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton says "The Med" would be devastated by loss of federal payments.

The big hospital operates as a safety net for indigent patients as well as being the region's Level One trauma center, where the most serious of injury and burn cases are handled.

Federal officials cited the sexual assault of three patients in the last year and delays of up to 18 hours in providing X-rays and other radiological care, among deficiencies.

State health department inspectors spent six days going through files and interviewing staffers at the Med.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services followed up yesterday with a 43-page report sent to the hospital's CEO, Dr. Bruce Steinhauer.

Hospital spokeswoman Sandy Snell says the sexual assaults occurred in May in the jail diversion unit. It was in temporary quarters then, but Snell says the psychiatric emergency unit is back in a permanent location and is segregated by sex.

Hospital officials have until September 9th to satisfy federal authorities that problems are fixed.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)