Joan Rivers Clinic Loses Federal Funding Over Continued Problems

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AP Images/NBC 4 New York

A federal agency says the Manhattan clinic where Joan Rivers suffered a fatal complication during a medical procedure will no longer be eligible to receive funds for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries because of continued non-compliance with certain requirements regarding management and surgical and other services.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services had postponed the deadline it gave Yorkville Endoscopy Center to correct deficiencies it found at the facility following the September death of Rivers, including failing to identify deteriorating vital signs and provide timely intervention, but said Monday a recent health survey showed the center still did not meet regulatory standards.

Specifically, the center said Yorkville, which was cited for violating Rivers’ right to privacy when a staff member allegedly took cellphone pictures of her while she was sedated, had left medical records of patients out in plain view. Proper follow-up procedure was also not implemented in several cases where patients who had received anesthesia were discharged, the center said. 

Investigators with the New York State Department of Health, which surveyed the facility on three days in December to assist with the center's final determination, also found lapses in quality assessment and performance improvement at Yorkville Endoscopy. 

Based on those findings, CMS wrote in a letter to the facility's director of operations that its federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries would be revoked beginning Jan. 31.

Yorkville had had several months to follow up on the plan of corrective action it submitted to investigators after they found deficiencies while surveying the facility on Sept. 5, the day after Rivers died. Negligence was not alleged in her death, though the use of anesthesia in her treatment -- and the privacy issues around the cellphone photos -- raised concerns.

In a statement Monday, Yorkville said it would continue to work with "all regulatory bodies" and hoped to have the decision reversed.

"Yorkville continues to be a licensed facility and perform procedures while cooperating with the regulatory process," the statement said.

Meanwhile, NBC 4 New York's I-Team has learned Yorkville is part of a network with regulatory troubles. Frontier Healthcare, the firm that manages operations for Yorkville Endoscopy, also manages operations for three other surgical centers that have failed safety standards in the past.

In a statement, Frontier said the three facilities that had problems -- problems discovered as they sought accreditation from a nonprofit that evaluates compliance with medical standards -- quickly corrected their deficiencies and patient safety was never questioned.

Frontier did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the CMS determination.

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