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Federal authorities remove Mission Hospital’s ‘immediate jeopardy’ designation

A building on the Mission Hospital campus in Asheville.
Felicia Sonmez
A building on the Mission Hospital campus in Asheville.

Federal authorities have lifted Mission Hospital’s “immediate jeopardy” designation, removing the risk of the Asheville facility losing its Medicare and Medicaid funding.

The decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services comes after a revisit late last month by state inspectors. A summary of the findings of that visit states that “no deficiencies” were found.

The news is a welcomed turn for the former nonprofit, which has seen mounting complaints, multiple lawsuits and an exodus of staff since it was purchased by for-profit HCA Healthcare in 2019.

In a letter Tuesday to Mission Hospital CEO Chad Patrick, CMS confirmed that the agency reviewed the state inspectors' recommendations and that the hospital is no longer in immediate jeopardy.

"Based on the findings of the North Carolina State Survey Agency’s revisit concluded on May 23, 2024, it has been determined that your hospital is now in compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation," the CMS letter stated. "Accordingly, we are removing your facility from State Survey Agency jurisdiction."

HCA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

State investigators first identified the “immediate jeopardy” violations at Mission Hospital late last year, based on nine incidents that took place between April 2022 and November 2023. In some cases, safety issues including understaffing led to patient deaths, investigators said in a report released in February.

Local officials urged HCA to sell Mission Hospital in the wake of the “immediate jeopardy” designation – a demand HCA has rebuffed – while staff accused the hospital of scrambling to improve conditions during subsequent visits by inspectors without addressing the underlying problems.

Separately, HCA faces several lawsuits, including one filed in December by Attorney General Josh Stein. Stein, who is also the Democratic nominee for governor, accused HCA of breach of contract by failing to provide quality emergency and oncology care. Buncombe County sought to intervene in the lawsuit, alleging that Mission Hospital leaders “intentionally understaffed” the emergency room, forcing county paramedics to remain with patients long after they arrived.

HCA has sought the dismissal of the case. A hearing in the North Carolina Business Court was held Tuesday, but Judge Julianna T. Earp has not yet issued a ruling.

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Felicia Sonmez is a reporter covering growth and development for Blue Ridge Public Radio.