Medical facility facing problems just before Christmas

December 13, 2011 3:35:37 PM PST
The IntraCare Behavioral Health Center has been treating families in the Houston area for decades. But now they need some help of their own after being told they would no longer be allowed to treat patients who receive Medicare and Medicaid.

It is a tough situation. It all began back in the summer when the federal government conducted routine inspections. They found some problems, and according to the government, IntraCare didn't make those corrections in time. Now a lot of people could be out of work just before Christmas.

For more than 20 years, IntraCare's medical center facility has provided much needed mental health care for Harris County, especially for people who could not afford to pay. But now, the hospital is about to lose its funding from Medicare, effective December 23, and the results could be devastating.

"It's a big deal," said IntraCare CEO Terry Scovill. "We have about 75, sometimes 80 percent of the people that we treat here on a daily basis are covered either by Medicaid or by Medicare."

Scovill says starting July 1, federal inspectors paid three separate visits to the hospital. Each time, they found the facility's paperwork was deficient.

"We didn't have any patients get injured. We didn't have any complaints about patients being mistreated," Scovill said. "We didn't have any complaints where patients were being hurt in any way. This was related to paperwork."

By the time Scovill found out about the extent of the problems, it was too late. The federal government already said it would pull the Medicare reimbursements.

Scovill says the hospital is trying to relocate as many patients as possible to its sister facility in north Harris County. But if Medicare can't pay for the patients, they can't be treated. And with fewer patients, the staff of 200 will most certainly be reduced. Scovill just doesn't know by how many quite yet.

He said, "I absolutely don't want to lay people off two days before Christmas."

A lot of people are trying to get to the bottom of things and avoid a catastrophe just before Christmas. So far, though, there does not appear to be a solution.

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