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UMC Faces Difficult Future | Health

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UMC Faces Difficult Future

LAS VEGAS -- University Medical Center is at a crossroads, switching leaders at a time it faces a financial crisis to stay open. Hospital CEO Kathy Silver is retiring July 1 and one of her last tasks will be to figure out how Las Vegas will be affected if UMC closed.

UMC has southern Nevada's only level 1 trauma center. With the county's public hospital giving $246 million in care to those who can't afford to pay for it, finances are at a breaking point. UMC is also facing challenges with the new health care law and Medicaid funding.

"We've also got to face up to something called value based purchasing which is something that is going to give us a score based on the quality of service we provide and patient satisfaction. That is going to affect our reimbursement rate," said UMC COO Brian Brannman.

After four years leading UMC, Silver is turning the reins over to Brannman. "It's taken us three years to get back on track after some substantially bad management that was going on here," he said.

Former UMC CEO Lacy Thomas is now charged with theft and misconduct, accused of giving friends taxpayer funded sweetheart business deals.

But UMC was the focus of another criminal case in 2009 when patient information was stolen by a hospital employee and sold to attorneys. An initial investigation by Silver failed to find the leak but she is confident it won't happen again.

"With the introduction of an electronic health record, that opportunity is unavailable in the future for somebody to take a physical piece of paper and walk off with it," she said.

"If a person is a dedicated criminal, they find all kinds of creative ways to try and subvert stuff. We have to find creative ways to stay one step ahead of them," said Brannman.

A New York Times investigation earlier this year revealed how one of UMC's physician's groups signed consulting contracts with a pacemaker manufacturers without notifying hospital management. A state agency is now investigating possible conflict of interest.

"It's never been about UMC. There's no suggestion that there's wrongdoing by UMC either by HHS or by the New York Times article," said Silver.

"One thing that we have accelerated is to make sure that we have disclosure from our medical staff any financial relationships they may have," said Brannman.

Among Silver's last tasks is to complete a paper outlining the deep impact a possible closure of UMC would bring.

"We're in the process right now, and I actually expect it will be finished today or early next week a white paper on what the impact the closure of UMC might look like," said Silver.



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