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Winnebago Indian Health Services Hospital

The Winnebago Indian Health Service Hospital is shown in Winnebago, Nebraska.

WINNEBAGO, Neb. | The day it lost its Medicare funding, Winnebago Indian Health Service Hospital appeared to be continuing to function.

On Thursday, vehicles were parked in the visitors and emergency medicine parking lots. Lawn-care workers were tending to grass on the hospital campus, and children and adults played on a park bench outside, near the emergency room entrance.

Inside the hospital, a woman sitting behind a desk to the right of the front doors was answering the phone but declined to comment about the funding loss. She referred inquiries to IHS spokeswoman Rhonda Webb, who could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

A couple of blocks away, in town, Winnebago residents were similarly tight-lipped when asked about the loss of hospital funding and the negligence federal officials say led to a patient death earlier this year.

More than a dozen people who identified themselves as members of the Winnebago or Omaha tribes said they were aware of the troubled hospital's situation but didn't want to discuss it, citing privacy reasons.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services pulled the hospital's Medicare funding Thursday due to a finding that the facility had caused “immediate jeopardy” to patients, leading to the death of a man earlier this year and harming at least nine other people. A CMS report said the hospital failed to provide adequate treatment and extended care for 10 of 30 patients randomly selected by the organization.

The agency notified the hospital July 8 that it was in danger of losing reimbursement for treating patients enrolled in the federal health care program for the elderly and disabled.

Bob Moos, a CMS spokesman, said the state funding will be pulled sometime after the federal funds are cut, but he did not provide a specific date.

“Typically, the Medicare funding and Medicaid funding are essentially tied together,” Moos said.

Russ Reno, a spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said his agency would notify the hospital in a letter Friday that it had withdrawn funds for any new patients effective Thursday.

Moos added that Medicare payments for patients admitted before Thursday may continue for up to 30 days. He said the change would not affect patients who have private insurance coverage.

Moos said the hospital has repeatedly failed to meet federal health and safety guidelines since 2011.

Theresa Eisenman, a spokeswoman for the IHS, which operates the hospital, said Thursday that the service sent a plan to CMS that included oversight of care, outsourcing management of the emergency department to a new single provider while permanent providers are being recruited and contracting with an independent consultant expert to review the hospital's entire operations.

Eisenman declined to comment on whether federal funding for new patients would be restored.

In May 2014, the hospital averted a shutoff because the hospital took immediate action to fix a series of alleged deficiencies. At the time, federal investigators said in a report that the hospital had failed to meet the needs of a patient who was admitted for respiratory problems and later died on April 17, 2014.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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