Local News

DHHS will lose $800K monthly after hospital loses certification

Posted September 11, 2008
Updated September 12, 2008

— The Department of Health and Human Services will lose approximately $800,000 from its budget per month in Medicaid and Medicare receipts that are usually generated by patients at a Goldsboro mental health hospital that lost its provider status earlier this month.

That's according to Leza Wainwright, co-director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, who says Cherry Hospital will remain open to those patients and that there will be no disruption of services to the community.

The hospital lost its Medicaid and Medicare provider status on Sept. 1 after a team of state employees working on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services examined the hospital's operations and found the facility did not comply with patient health and safety standards.

Department officials say it is too early to determine when Cherry Hospital will be ready to reapply for federal funding.

"It's a significant strain on the budget, and we will have to look at what short-term operational changes we may have to make," Wainwright said.

Federal officials initially threatened to cut off the insurance reimbursements on Aug. 13, following 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.

"We had fixed the items identified in the Aug. 13 visit," Wainwright said. "What happened there were additional incidents while they were on site."

According to its 170-page report, CMS cited the hospital for, among other things, inadequate frontline staffing and insufficient training plans.

"It clearly gives the mental health system, as a whole, another black eye," said John Tote, with the Mental Health Association in North Carolina.

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.

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

Tote said he is concerned that the effects from Cherry Hospital losing its provider status could reach well beyond the Goldsboro facility.

"We could very well be at a tipping point within the system, if we're not careful," he said.

Wainwright agrees, saying the department has recognized such issues are systemic. She has hired Compass Group Inc., of Cincinnati, to serve as an independent management consultant to evaluate the operational and management structure of the hospital.

"At this point, the department has no choice but to step outside of the department and really call on folks to come in with an objective look at it so you don't have a fox-guarding-the henhouse kind of mentality," Tote said.

At a cost of about $90,000, a team of five consultants is expected to provide a detailed corrective action plan within the next 10 days.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • abattle12002 Sep 11, 2008

    I agree with commonsensical, CLEAN HOUSE!! Not only at the hospital, check out other divisions of DHHS, until DHHS do right by their employees, and consumers, this will happen. There should be an investigation of all DHHS divisions. Start with VR management.

  • commonsensical Sep 11, 2008

    Now, it's time to clean house starting at the top. Fire every manager that supervised employees that had a role in the cause of the loss of funding - including the top manager of the facility.

  • whatelseisnew Sep 11, 2008

    I have long said Medicare and Medicaid should not exist.

  • Windsway Sep 11, 2008

    This is typical of the Easley and Perdue administration. Why doesn't the media call a spade a spade? Everyone who has ever had any real experience with the mental health system knows that the administration has been concerned only with the dollar, not the patient. Easley and Perdue are two-faced politicians. North Carolina should be outraged with our so-called leadership. This is another in a long list of Easley and Perdue failures.....at taxpayers expense.

  • koverbee Sep 11, 2008

    "They should close the doors, fire the ENTIRE staff and start all over again, with Private Care. That's the only way to hold anyone accountable vs State provided care."

    The problem is, the income generated by private care alnoe would not be enough to support the insitution's expenses. I do medical insurance billing for a health care agency and Medicare/ Medicaid accounts for well over 50% of our income. Private insurance is MUCH smaller and there is no way Cherry hospital would survive with only this income. The problem is, I live in Goldsboro and the hospital employs A LOT of people and if it closes down, the state of Goldsboro's econony will be very poor.

  • Tolip Sep 11, 2008

    They should close the doors, fire the ENTIRE staff and start all over again, with Private Care. That's the only way to hold anyone accountable vs State provided care.

  • amyrn Sep 11, 2008

    In the past, people have been afraid to report incidents. Why? They were afraid of retaliation. From the day you go to work there, you hear the horror stories of someone who reported someone being left along on a ward with a violent patient or how it takes an extra minute or two to get some help. Are the stories true? I don't know, I never saw any of that for myself but it was enough to scare people. Abuse started being reported when the cameras were put up. There have also been times when reports have been made and the allegation just shoved under the carpet because that particular employee is a favorite or they move a trouble maker from building to building.
    There are bad employees everywhere, unfortunately that includes the health care field. It takes a good strong involved administration to run a tight well working health care facility.

  • WHEEL Sep 11, 2008

    They should take any shortfall out of Easleys retirement account.

  • Adelinthe Sep 11, 2008

    amryn - "Many of the employees at Cherry Hospital are very caring. They are also very overworked. Yes, there have been some that have not done a good job but don't blame all of them."

    Perhaps, but if those doing a good job had gone one step further and reported those not doing a good job to the highest authority, this would never happened and patient(s) would not have died.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe Sep 11, 2008

    "The state remains committed to providing inpatient psychiatric services to consumers in eastern North Carolina..."


    Maybe this will teach them a lesson.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB