By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Citing an exception in the state Open Records Act, officials of Nashville General Hospital are refusing to release a report which was used as partial justification for an emergency $10 million cash infusion from Metro Council.
In a letter sent today Marc Overlock, general counsel to the hospital authority, denied a request for the critical report from the Joint Commission.
Citing a provision in the Open Records Act, Overlock wrote "Because that law has an exception for documents that are deemed by state law to be confidential, we are not authorized to release that report."
The report was one of the major reasons given to Metro Council for the emergency cash infusion approved by the council last week.
Council members were provided only with a summary of that report given by the hospital Chief Executive Officer Joseph Webb. He told members the report included serious deficiencies in several areas including patient safety, infection control and staffing.
Webb said $2.4 million of the $10 million total would go to implement a corrective action plan covering the multiple deficiencies. He said accreditation was an absolute necessity.
In his response to the public records request, Overlock also cited a state licensing law that requires hospitals to gain accreditation from a federally recognized organization.
He said another section of that same statute states the reports "shall be maintained as a confidential record."
The $10 million in funding approved last week is in addition to regular budget funding of $35 million approved earlier.
In addition to the $2.4 million, Webb told council that the balance of the the new allocation would go to new strategic initiatives and a revenue shortfall.
Officials of the state Health Department said they do not get copies of the hospital accreditation inspection reports, nor do they regularly conduct their own inspections. The agency relies on the letters of accreditation issued by the federally recognized agencies.
The state law, however, does give the state Health Department to conduct its own inspections, if it so chooses.
"Such facilities may be subject to an inspection by the department," the statute states.
In other states, including Pennsylvania, hospitals are subject to annual state inspections and those reports are posted on the state health department web site.
The Joint Commission web site currently lists Nashville General as accredited with the last inspection in October of 2015.