Local News

Feds could withdraw payments to Cherry Hospital

Posted September 1, 2008
Updated September 11, 2008

— A team reviewing Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro is recommending that insurance reimbursements for government programs be withdrawn.

Federal officials threatened to withdraw the payments after the April 29 death of a Steven Sabock, 50, who was left unattended for more than 22 hours while staff members played cards and watched television.

A team of state employees working on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services went last month to examine the hospital's operations and found Sunday that not enough changes had been made, Tom Lawrence, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said Monday.

Lawrence said the recommendation would primarily affect Medicaid patients but that patients already at the hospital would be covered.

Future patients on Medicare and Medicaid will still be admitted to Cherry Hospital. Funding for their care, he said, would come from the DHHS budget.

Meanwhile, DHHS is still working to identify and resolve the issues and hope to have them corrected and reapply for federal funding  in the next several weeks.

Cherry Hospital, which serves more than 2,700 people a year in 36 eastern counties, has come under scrutiny in recent months after a number of incidents involving staff.

A federal report found Sabock sat in the same room for four work shifts, ate nothing the day he died and had little food in the three days preceding his death. Workers were supposed to be closely monitoring his condition and might have forged documents that said they had.

One of those employees has since resigned and the remaining were removed from direct patient care and disciplined.

Calling the punishment insufficient, DHHS Secretary Dempsey Benton asked the hospital's director, Dr. Jack St. Clair, to re-evaluate the disciplinary action and ordered the ward where Sabock died closed.

The report also faulted the hospital for an incident where a physician punched a patient with developmental disabilities after the teen bit him.

Four other hospital employees – two nurses and two health-care technicians, also facing criminal charges – were also fired last month in the wake of accusations related to a patient beating.

Benton has said that he still has confidence in St. Clair and that the director has made progress on other fronts in the hospital.

The hospital has been criticized before for poor patient care and patient deaths and was in jeopardy last fall of losing federal funding after CMS found failures in observation and documentation that resulted in the "elopement" of a patient, and failure to provide timely care of a patient needing emergency care.


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  • ERRN Sep 2, 2008

    Admiral-just so you know, if you take an ambulance to the ER for a non-emergent reason, the ER staff will send you straight to the lobby to wait your turn. And I also suggest you consult the head entimologist at NCSU about the local spider population.

  • TheAdmiral Sep 2, 2008

    "Brown Recluse spiders are only found in the far western portion of NC"

    No, they are not.

  • TheAdmiral Sep 2, 2008

    Note about emergency rooms. If your not going in via strecher, you will likely die or walk out. AND BE CHARGED FOR IT.

    You are better off calling the ambulance to fix your problem. They can do in 25 minutes what people wait several hours for in an emergency room.

  • TheAdmiral Sep 2, 2008

    I think the feds should remove all funding from all state programs.

    Let the State sunset those programs.

  • coolwill Sep 2, 2008

    People they expect North Carolina tax payers to fill the brunt of their incompetence, while the people in charge of theses organizations sit and collect a salary for not doing their jobs. If this was a private company the feds would have been all over the CEO and management staff for taking money from the stock holders and retirement fund, but since this is tax payer funded all the general assembly does is fell out that blank check from you and me and fire the people at the bottom. You have just been raped again, do you remember the $400 million.

  • nealsgirl Sep 1, 2008

    Gosh, I sure am glad to hear from some other than the media about this issue, I realize they don't always report correct info,but hey, it's a hard job, I've done it in Butner and in several nursing homes, the conditions I can relate too, but never has any of my former patients been so neglected that they died or even choked on anything. I think the citisens of this state deserve better than that. Opinions like......everybody's got one but, I believe neglect and abuse happened there. Hope the good people stay there and the bad GET OUT!

  • amyrn Sep 1, 2008

    Didn't the heart attack occur after he choked on medication and fell and hit his head and didn't eat for hours? Seems like all of this may have contributed. Now, this information came from the papers and the tv....I know that often there is information that is not correct. Could you give us more current and correct information. I left Cherry Hospital recently and I have been following this story closely and would love to hear more of what you have to say.

  • coolwill Sep 1, 2008

    “Future patients on Medicare and Medicaid will still be admitted to Cherry Hospital. Funding for their care, he said, would come from the DHHS budget” what you mean is the tax payers of North Carolina, where did they find this extra money. This states leader including the governor and the general assembly has cost North Carolinas tax payers dearly including the money spent on illegal aliens with tax dollars. .

  • agricon3 Sep 1, 2008

    I have several family members and quit a few friends that work at Cherry and its sister facility O'berry. Most employees there truly care for the patients and try to do the right things for them. The biggest problem with this story is all the false info being spread. The patient died of a heart attack not chocking. He had previously refused food they were not starving him( mental patients do this as punishment to their care givers). He had documentation of being uncooperative. As far as goldbrickers go, yes they are out there but firing them takes months of paper work and discipline and then they get their jobs back, go figure. As far as the doctor punching the biter, let me bite the blood out of you and not let go. I believe you would do whatever worked to get me off of you. The Doctor will probably get fired without any discipline because the press knows what he did. Go figure. Superman emergency rooms are for emergencies not infected bug bites, call your Dr. or urgent care

  • ERRN Sep 1, 2008

    So the article says current patients will get funded and future patients will get admitted so what is the point of all this?? Also, Superman- why did you go to the ER for a skin infection and wait 7 hours. That is ridiculous. And by the way, Brown Recluse spiders are only found in the far western portion of NC, the "spider bite" you were treated for in called a staph infection. I see them in the 10 times a day in the ER and every one of them claims to have been bitten by a spider.