State, feds investigate California hospital chain

State and federal authorities are investigating a Southern California hospital chain for an unusually high rate of life-threatening infections among its older patients.

The Los Angeles Times reports Monday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the state's Department of Justice are looking into a reported surge in septicemia infections at hospitals operated by Prime Healthcare Services.

The agencies are trying to determine if the increase in the blood poisonings reflects a serious health problem or multimillion-dollar Medicare fraud. Septicemia arises most often in hospitals with poor procedures for infection control.

Prime Healthcare reimbursement director Ajith Kumar says the relatively high rates reflect the company's emphasis on early detection and treatment of septicemia.

Information from: Los Angeles Times

© 2010 The Associated Press.

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