St. Joseph Medical Center to stay open

- The future of St. Joseph Medical Center was shaky for a while, but now, it's settled -- the hospital is here to stay, but staff have to work on a Systems Improvement Agreement (SIA) plan.

There were several safety concerns about St. Joseph after a hospital security guard shot a difficult patient who had a mental illness. That patient survived, but federal officials questioned why other methods weren't used to subdue him -- and so an investigation was opened.

Now, after weathering some stormy months of uncertainty, St. Joseph Medical Center staff announced they will stay open and will continue to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

“The services that it has would be, without a doubt, a deep and unfixable hole in the healthcare of Houston, Harris County and Texas had it closed,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee.

Originally, federal officials had announced that the hospital's funding would be choked off on December 3rd because the hospital wasn't compliant with federal regulations.

A high number of St. Joseph patients use Medicare and Medicaid, and without government funding, the hospital would have had a tough time staying open.

But the Congresswoman, along with hospital staff, appealed to the government -- one argument being that the hospital is in a crucial medical location should there be a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

“The time element between rushing someone to the nearest facility if St. Joseph were not here would inevitably cause loss of life. Today we make a stand and say we have prevented that loss of life,” said Jackson-Lee.

Part of the agreement to allow that fiscal lifeline includes a systems improvement agreement plan which focuses on improving several areas of the hospital.

“We will look at things like patient throughput when a patient comes through a door -- where is that level of care, how soon can we get them to the next level of care that’s adequate for them,” said Charlene Warren, the Chief Nursing Officer.

On top of that, a consultant will be at the hospital for the next 18 months to advise on strengthening their overall system.

St. Joseph is the only trauma hospital in downtown Houston and a vital resource for the homeless.

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