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Monday, March 27, 2023
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CMS Cuts Off JFL Hospital from Medicare, Medicaid

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, known as CMS, will stop the Gov. Juan F. Luis Memorial Hospital’s participation in the federal health programs effective Oct. 9, cutting off a major source of revenue for the financially beleaguered hospital.

Without CMS certification, the hospital will not be able to bill the federal government for services to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, which would be devastating to JFL’s already precarious financial situation.

Following a 2011 CMS inspection, the hospital was found deficient in 11 of 23 categories. In December 2011 the hospital entered into an improvement agreement with CMS. Since then the hospital has seen deadlines come and go, a shakeup of the administration and a continued balloon of JFL’s multimillion debt, but has yet to resolve the issues.

Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen met Thursday with CMS officials in Washington, D.C., and said afterwards there is room for further discussions that may resolve the emergency situation at the St. Croix hospital.

“I made it clear that we cannot afford to have the funds that take care of our elderly who have no insurance terminated,” Christensen said. “We believe that the JFL and the government of the Virgin Islands should challenge this decision, which would seriously hurt our most vulnerable citizens.”

“While the crisis is not yet averted, I have been assured that going forward there will be discussions to see if there can be some actions that can avert the cessation of funds,” she said.

The delegate continued, “I know that Dr. Griffith and his entire staff have worked diligently to meet the conditions set by CMS, but with limited resources, in a time of great economic distress, it is difficult for them to comply with everything and we need CMS to understand that. JFL is our only hospital, and their decision will only bring more hardship on the patients,” she said.

“There are some issues of greater concern than others. While the administration, legislature and I work to try and avert yet another crisis, they must be addressed,” she said.

In an audio statement released Thursday by Government House, the hospital’s chief executive officer, Dr. Kendall Griffith, said the decision was disappointing but promised that the staff and physicians will continue working to improve the hospital.

"Fellow Virgin Islanders, I can assure you that CMS’s decision to discontinue participation with JFL does not in any way reflect the true and accurate picture of the hospital’s current operating condition, and the decision certainly is not reflective of the hard work and dedication that is displayed by the staff and the physicians of the hospital,” he said in the recorded statement.

Griffith said he received the notification Wednesday and alerted Christensen, Gov. John deJongh Jr., Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone and other lawmakers.

Since 2011, Christensen, who is herself a physician, and her staff have had over a half dozen meetings and conference calls with senior leadership from CMS to identify effective short- and long-term solutions, her statement said. Christensen said she has identified several options that she will ask CMS to consider in order to stall the current plans to terminate the Medicare agreement with the hospital.

Griffith acknowledged that JFL is "not a perfect hospital," but said "everyone at JFL has been working diligently and tirelessly to meet or exceed all of CMS’s standards." He claimed there is evidence to show the hospital has made "substantial and significant improvement over the last year.

He said the staff remains committed to its goal of transforming JFL into a leading health care provider in the Caribbean.

Despite CMS’s decision, Griffith pledged that the hospital will continue operations and "the people of St. Croix will continue to receive the very best in quality care."

According to Government House, deJongh was briefed by Griffith and Acting District Board Chairman Dr. Anthony Ricketts late Wednesday and the governor assured them of the administration’s continued support of JFL Hospital. “I am certain that there are feasible solutions that can be identified to stave off this potential health care crisis on St. Croix while working towards addressing the long term objectives outlined by CMS," deJongh said.

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