Missouri health regulators have told a Boonville, Missouri, hospital that specializes in bariatric surgery and is affiliated with a similar privately owned hospital in Overland Park, Kansas, to discontinue performing surgery.
The directive was issued last month, after the regulators conducted an inspection at Pinnacle Regional Hospital and cited it for sterile processing procedures.
“We’ve elected to forgo surgical services in the immediate future and we’re working with the state right now on getting a plan moving forward to rectify the situation,” Joe Conigliaro, the hospital’s CEO, told KCUR.
Formerly known as Cooper County Memorial Hospital, the hospital changed its name to Pinnacle Regional in 2018 after businessman Douglas Palzer bought it. Palzer also owns Blue Valley Hospital in Overland Park, which lost its Medicare certification in 2018 and is fighting to regain it.
Before losing its certification, Blue Valley, which Palzer has also rebranded as Pinnacle Regional Hospital, claimed to perform more than a third of all bariatric surgeries – a procedure to help extremely obese people lose weight – for Missouri Medicaid patients.
Palzer bought the Boonville hospital after Blue Valley lost its Medicare certification. Since then, the Boonville hospital had been performing bariatric surgery on Medicaid patients.
In order to resume performing that surgery, it will now need to comply with the state’s directive to upgrade its sterile processing department – work that will involve architects and engineers and could take months.
“The plan is to make the appropriate repairs in a timely fashion so we can get the (operating rooms) back up and running as quickly as possible,” Conigliaro said.
Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the agency that cited the hospital, said the department would have no comment.
In the meantime, the Boonville hospital is continuing to provide outpatient, primary care, podiatry and other services, Conigliaro said.
The Overland Park hospital has been in a drawn-out battle to regain its Medicare certification.
Health officials conducted an unannounced inspection of the hospital in November 2017 and concluded it did not "primarily engage" in providing inpatient services, a requirement for Medicare coverage. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says hospitals must average at least two inpatients a day and an average length of stay of at least two nights to be eligible for Medicare reimbursement.
Randy Schultz, a lawyer for the hospital, said the matter is now pending before an administrative law judge.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.