"We're really not the worst hospital in the country, (as some press reports had implied) and we're going to prove it," he said.
Additionally, he says that the formula CMS uses to reflect racial disparities and burden of disease seen in so many patients in Southwest's rural region.
"It's poor, and our demographics are 52% African American. We are high in the state with heart disease, hypertension and obesity. And they say it shouldn't matter. Well it does matter. Go to Beverly Hills hospitals and tell me what their heart failure rate is," he said.
Price adds that many of Southwest's patients are also on renal dialysis, and have high rates of stroke.
Now, all the bad publicity has prompted the hospital to change a few things, Price said. One surprise they discovered, when they started to look, was that a cardiologist was not reviewing the charts of all heart attack patients. Now, they've hired more cardiologists to do just that, and staff to call patients on the 7th and 14th day after discharge.
Another problem was that patients were unable to get to a doctor's office so the hospital may buy buses to provide transportation to and from post discharge checkups.
They've also upgraded their ambulance service to cover all areas of Pike County.
With these changes, he says, in a year or two, "we're going to look like a comet."
Piedmont Medical Center, Rock Hill, SC.
Piedmont Medical Center, the other hospital with worse 30-day mortality rates in all three disease categories, could not respond by phone, but their corporate owner, Tenet Healthcare, sent me a one-page statement of their correction plan, which focused on improving process measures.