Are South Carolina’s Cuts in Hospital Funding Good for Patient Safety?


The bad economic environment has prompted South Carolina’s legislature to seek cuts from public programs. Eighteen hospitals will receive an 8% cut in their state funding. The hospitals have been recognized by the federal government for their treatment of the uninsured.

The cuts come at a time when the federal government is trying to reduce medical errors by investing in prevention. Health and Human Services (HHS) has pledged $1 billion to fund an initiative called Partnership for Patients.The program aims to reduce preventable injuries in hospitals by 40% and hospital readmission by 20 percent.The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will also pledge up to $500 million to develop best practices and patient safety protocols.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated, “Reaching those targets would save up to $35 billion over the next 10 years. That’s a return of up to $10 for each dollar we’re investing..

Because prevention of avoidable medical errors requires time, research and money, South Carolina’s hospitals face a greater challenge in improving their error rates. Do the cuts mean that already overwhelmed staff will not be able to address safety issues that could potentially save their hospitals and the state millions of dollars? Medical errors often mean longer hospitalizations and poorer health outcomes. In what ways, both small and large, will patients suffer?
Carolinas Hospital’s CEO Jim O’Loughlin issued a statement ensuring the public that the hospital is still dedicated to excellent service despite the cuts.

O’Loughlin also stated, “While we fully understand the budget constraints, we have always believed (as have other hospitals) that there are a myriad of more effective ways to reduce expenditures without reducing programs where there is a federal match of dollars for the care hospitals provide to patients covered by Medicaid..


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