Texas Governor Orders Probe of Rural Hospital Chain

July 23, 2013

Aides to Gov. Rick Perry say he has ordered a “deep and comprehensive look” at health care facilities owned by a Dallas-area physician whose rural hospitals have violated safety regulations without drawing state scrutiny.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the decision comes after Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth called on Perry and other lawmakers to not “drag their feet” in determining the size and severity of patient abuse and deaths at hospitals owned by Dr. Tariq Mahmood of Cedar Hill.

Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said the governor expects the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and its inspector general “to thoroughly review this and any other allegations to ensure Texans are receiving safe and effective medical care.”

State health officials said an inspection team already visited one of Mahmood’s hospitals, the Lake Whitney Medical Center in Whitney, on Friday.

“We’ll be doing a more comprehensive look,” said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “We have direction to move forward and will be putting together a plan to address problems.”

Douglas Wilson, the Health and Human Services Commission’s inspector general, said: “We will likely pull records, pull files, have our nurses, auditors and investigators review those records, go onsite if appropriate, and interview staff. I think the state will feel it will get an aggressive and positive outcome from us looking into it.”

The News has previously reported that inspection records obtained from the federal government showed hundreds of safety regulation violations over the past four years at Mahmood’s hospitals. The comparable state records are withheld from the public by state law.

A whistleblower warned of potential billing fraud and patient safety threats in 2008, but several agencies failed to share key information about the woes at the rural hospitals.

Regulators finally closed two of Mahmood’s hospitals, Renaissance Hospital Terrell and Shelby Medical Center in Center. Federal authorities accused Mahmood of Medicare and Medicaid fraud in April, but Mahmood has denied any wrongdoing.

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