Health Care for Hospitals?

Our colleagues at the Daily News have been investigating conditions in city-run hospitals, where, the reports indicate, mistakes have been covered up and records tampered with to deceive regulators.

Now comes word that officials at Bellevue Hospital may have been tipped off about a surprise inspection. The News reported last week that the hospital cleaned up its act when administrators learned that independent investigators might be on their way. Among other measures, hospital officials encouraged staff to discharge patients who didn’t require further hospitalization. (Does it take a possible surprise visit from inspectors to empty beds with such efficiency?)

Thanks to the News’ investigation, a task force called the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has been visiting city hospitals unannounced, looking for evidence of sloppy record-keeping and other unhealthy practices. The commission’s visits began after City Comptroller William Thompson, among others, demanded an official probe into the News’ allegations.

Mr. Thompson is now the Democratic nominee for mayor, and he has been trying to get some traction in his underdog campaign against incumbent Michael Bloomberg. The mayor has kept Mr. Thompson on the defensive thus far, but the comptroller has an issue he could, and should, exploit. At time when the whole country is talking about health care, Mr. Thompson should press forward with his concerns about the city’s public hospitals.

The city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs the municipal hospital system, has come under attack in the past for its inefficiency and lack of accountability. In fact, it may be that the HHC is the next Board of Education—a cumbersome, outdated bureaucracy in desperate need of radical change.

Of course, Mr. Thompson may want to avoid that analogy if he decides to make health care an issue over the next four weeks.

He, after all, used to be president of the Board of Education. Health Care for Hospitals?