State House hopeful: Suspend DMC’s tax credits

Joel Kurth
The Detroit News
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Detroit — A state House candidate wants to create legislation to suspend tax credits for businesses that create severe public health risks — a proposal that would penalize the Detroit Medical Center.

William Broman, R-Grosse Pointe Woods, proposed the legislation Monday, one week after the release of a federal investigation that found multiple deficiencies involving cleaning instruments at the DMC’s Midtown campus. The U.S. Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) gave the system a Dec. 14 deadline to fix the problems or lose Medicare funding.

That would decimate the DMC and affect thousands of low-income patients. Ending funding is the federal government’s only option for hospitals, however: The agency isn’t allowed to levy fines or issue other sanctions.

“The issues at the DMC are extremely serious, and this legislation allows for disciplinary action without leaving Detroiters without a hospital,” Broman said in a statement. He is campaigning for District 1, which covers part of Detroit, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores.

In 2010, lawmakers placed the DMC’s central campus in a Renaissance Zone, a region that is virtually tax free. The move forgives $14 million in taxes for 15 years. In exchange, the hospital agreed to make hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements at the complex comprised of Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Detroit Receiving, Harper University, Hutzel Women and DMC Heart hospitals.

Under Broman’s proposal, the DMC would owe about $38,000 in taxes for each day it was in violation, he said in a press release.

“We are telling every business in a Renaissance Zone that such status is a privilege and if they don’t take that seriously, they will lose that privilege,” Broman said.

He is campaigning against incumbent state Rep. Brian Banks, D-Harper Woods. Banks did not return a messages seeking comment Monday. In earlier stories, Banks has said he “has all faith and confidence the DMC will address the issue comprehensively and correctly.”

The federal investigation was prompted by a Detroit News series that documented 11 years of complaints about improperly sterilized surgical tools. Based on 200 pages of internal emails and incident reports, the articles found dirty instruments complicated operations ranging from brain surgeries to spinal fusions, kept patients under anesthesia unnecessarily and led to cancellations of dozens of operations.

The DMC has maintained that sterilization problems caused no infections because dirty instruments were intercepted and replaced before they came into contact with patients.

CMS has accepted the system’s plan of corrective action to fix the issues. Regulators plan a surprise inspection before the deadline to ensure compliance.

Separately, state regulators also cited the DMC for eight health code violations in mid-September. The system has 60 days to submit another corrective plan to the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

On Monday afternoon, top DMC executives met with community leaders The Rev. Horace Sheffield III of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations, the Rev. William Revely Jr. of Unify Detroit Coalition and Junius Williams of the Community Coalition.

Last week, Sheffield said he was so concerned about issues with sterilization he was ready to call for a boycott. He said he left the meeting “thoroughly satisfied (the DMC) is meeting the challenges.”

“They were able to convince me that, as far as it relates to utensils, they’re taking measures to ensure this will never be an issue again,” Sheffield said.

Twitter: @joeltkurth

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