Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Carlyle's "Patients First" Pledge is Laughable Given Track Record

The Carlyle Group issued a "Patients First" pledge in response to criticism and studies showing declining quality once private equity firm's buy nursing home companies. To stem concerns about its planned purchase of Manor Care, Carlyle made the following commitment.

Patients First Pledge
1. We will continue to provide quality health care services for our patients and residents.
2. We will continue to provide the education and training to help ensure our professional staff and frontline caregivers have the tools to meet the needs of our patients and residents.
3. We will maintain our primary focus on providing care for patients who require complex medical care and intensive rehabilitation, those whom other providers must often turn away.
4. We will continue to staff based on our patients’ clinical needs, many of whom are higher-acuity, while striving to exceed all federal and state requirements.
5. We will provide the capital investment that helps ensure Manor Care’s facilities continue to be well-maintained, attractive structures, as well as state-of-the-art in their rehabilitation capabilities, clinical technology and record keeping.

Carlyle has a track record in the bolded areas with LifeCare Hospitals, a long term acute care company. They closed on the LifeCare deal in August 2005, just weeks before Hurricane Katrina sideswiped New Orleans. Their unit in Memorial Hospital had the largest number of patient deaths in the horrific aftermath of the storm. While giant hospital company HCA rented helicopters to transport patients from their dead facilities, LifeCare patients suffered.

None of this made the White House Lessons Learned report. There is no mention of LifeCare and its 24 patient deaths in the whole tome. I'm sure Carlyle appreciates going into those wrongful death lawsuits with the feds silent on their handling of patients post landfall.

But it gets better! Carlyle's defense attorneys actually blame the feds for the deaths. They argue LifeCare patients became wards of the federal government as soon as FEMA set up evacuation teams in New Orleans. I've never seen a hospital disaster plan that comes close to Carlyle's assertions. The private equity firm has a clear track record of failing patients in a time of crisis and later not accepting responsibility. Why should they get a crack at over 500 nursing homes when they couldn't safely handle one of twenty one LTAC's?

LifeCare clinicians and executives should be testifying on Capital Hill about Carlyle's actions during Katrina for insight into how they may deal with Manor Care. But just as they are ghosts in the George Bush's Lessons Learned report, the Carlyle media management machine will ensure no such testimony occurs.