State reviewing complaint against Healthmark Regional Medical Center in DeFuniak Springs

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — The state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is reviewing a complaint filed against Healthmark Regional Medical Center.

 AHCA is responsible for licensure and regulation of the state's 48,500 health care facilities.

Healthmark Regional Medical Center, on U.S. Highway 331 south of DeFuniak Springs, is a 58,000-square-foot, 50-bed short-term acute care facility with services including emergency care, surgical capabilities and a walk-in clinic.

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The AHCA's communications office confirmed late last week that it had received the complaint. But in an email to the Daily News, the communications office also noted that the agency is "unable to provide additional details concerning the complaint at this time."

The hospital is aware of the complaint, according to Ron Kelley, marketing and recruitment director for Healthmark. But like the AHCA, the hospital would not comment on the specifics.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is reviewing a complaint filed against Healthmark Regional Medical Center in DeFuniak Springs.

"We don't have any comment on anything that could be ongoing," Kelley said.

But he added that he would forward the Daily News' request for information on to the hospital administration in the event that anyone in those ranks might want to comment.

A call made later Monday morning by the Daily News to the hospital's chief operating officer had not been returned by deadline, and an attempt to contact a hospital board member Tuesday also was unsuccessful.

An email received recently by the Daily News purporting to be a copy of the complaint filed with AHCA makes allegations regarding the handling of medications at the facility, among other issues, but the person listed as filing the complaint did not return either a Monday text message nor a Tuesday telephone call seeking comment. 

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In a boilerplate response to Daily News questions regarding the AHCA's process for investigating complaints, the agency noted that it "cites deficiencies when violations are identified" and requires any cited facility to "implement corrective actions to prevent recurrence."

Any facility that fails to address deficiencies can face AHCA sanctions including fines and revocation or suspension of any applicable licenses and a moratorium on admissions. If action beyond facility regulation is needed, the AHCA refers its findings to other state agencies or to local law enforcement agencies, according to AHCA's communications office.

"Our agency takes very seriously the health and safety of patients in the facilities we regulate," the AHCA email stated in part. "Hospitals must be managed and operated to ensure the health and safety of their patients."

There have been reports that aspects of the alleged issues at Healthmark involving a high-ranking hospital official were under investigation by the Walton County Sheriff's Office and the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office. However, public information officers for both sheriff's offices said their agencies were not involved in any investigations related to the AHCA complaint.