The Senate Finance Committee is investigating patient deaths and allegations of substandard treatment at the Select Medical Corporation, a for-profit company that operates 89 long-term care facilities, making it the largest organization of its kind in the nation.
Long term care hospitals treat about 200,000 seriously ill patients per year, although they rarely employ full-time physicians. The facilities are defined solely by their length of stay, although they also tend to be smaller than acute care hospitals and do not have emergency rooms.
In a letter sent to Robert Ortenzio, the CEO of Select , the committee’s top two senators, Montana Democrat Max Baucus and Iowa Republican Charles E. Grassley demanded that his company provide records concerning staffing levels and turnover, and patient monitoring and the quality of care at its facilities.
The letter is not a subpoena, but companies typically respond voluntarily to things like this.
A New York Times article prompted the investigation. The article described poor treatment and several deaths at long-term care hospitals, including one owned by Select in which a dying patient’s heart alarm rang for 77 minutes before nurses showed up.
Former employees of Select told the Times that Select’s hospitals are understaffed, and that the company tries to keep patients for exactly 25 days since the most profit can be obtained by patients who stay for this duration, according to government reimbursement rules.
Select spokesperson Carolyn Curnand said her company would cooperate with the Senate investigation. She said the Times article was misleading and inaccurate and that her company had a record for providing high quality care. She denied that Select discharged or held patients for financial purposes.
The Ortenzio family has made $400 million since starting Select 14 years ago.