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DHHS secretary vows to fix Cherry Hospital

Posted September 12, 2008

— State Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton said Friday he will do whatever it takes to bring a Goldsboro mental health facility to the highest standards of care to make it "a safe and secure environment."

"The department is dedicated to providing quality care to consumers in the state facilities, and substandard care will not be tolerated," Benton said in a news release.

Cherry Hospital, one of the state's four mental hospitals, Thursday lost its Medicare and Medicaid certification, which means the federal insurance program won't reimburse the hospital for treating patients.

Instead, approximately $800,000 from the department's budget will cover the patients' care. It's too early to say when the hospital will reapply for certification, officials have said.

In the meantime, Compass Group Inc., an out-of-state independent hospital management team, will review Cherry Hospital and develop a plan for any changes necessary to bring the facility "not just back into compliance, but to the highest standards of care," Benton said.

The group will then work on-site at Cherry Hospital and implement the plan.

Benton said he wants more money to cover the budget shortfall and to raise pay in certain positions. He also wants to add crisis teams in Cherry Hospital's coverage areas and make extra community hospital beds available.

Thursday's official announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to decertify Cherry Hospital is the latest in setbacks for the hospital as well as the state's mental health system.

It has struggled to stabilize after reform legislation earlier this decade left pockets of the state without community treatment options and ultimately led to wasteful spending.

At Cherry Hospital, state officials disclosed in mid-August that a patient had died in April after choking on medication and being left sitting in a chair for nearly 24 hours over the course of four work shifts.

Benton closed the hospital ward where the patient died and removed staff members involved from caring for patients directly.

Two staff members also were accused of beating a different patient in August, at the same time Cherry leaders started patient care retraining to show investigators it was trying to fix problems.

Broughton hospital in Morganton was decertified for 10 months until July while the state fixed problems related to patient safety, including a patient's death last year.

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  • ContinuityMan Sep 15, 2008

    NN, This is a state government issue and has nothing to do with the Bush administration.

    The problem here is rampant incompetence throughout most state agencies, stemming from the complete domination of our state government by one party for more than one hundred years. You know what they say about absolute power... No, nothing will change until we achieve a balance of power between the parties and our elected officials are then forced to reach across the aisle and "horse trade" to get their work done.

  • Nothing New Sep 12, 2008

    This does not juct apply to DHHS, but DOT, UNC (sleazly pay raise) and most likely every government program at the state level and fed level. The economy with home forclosures, you cannot tell they did not see this coming, they did why would Bush push for bankrupcy law changes. The lenders saw it coming, got laws change so they can keep more and collect more money. THEY SAW IT COMING and what did the FEDS do, change the laws making it harder to file.

  • Nothing New Sep 12, 2008

    The state has been working for years trying to "improve" mental health care in NC costing taxpayers millions. Now more millions in lost benefits. How many years has NC been in mental heath care and we still can't get it right? Why is it when ever there is a problem rhe answer is more money so we can fix it. When do we start hiring compete managers and not good old boys. When are we going to have policians/managers that can be forward looking and prepare and forwarn of problems rather than "ALWAYS" reacting and that includes the FEDS. Seems no one in government can predict or fully analize what may happen before is happens and they through more money at to reslove it. Stop using politics to handle my money and put private sector managers inplace. Stop the poltical pay backs and get real people that know what they are doing. Act more like the private sector, you would get no more money, no raises, either fix it with what you have, or you all will be looking for jobs.

  • NCGal Sep 12, 2008

    It sure didn't take long to go from......"Instead, approximately $800,000 from the department's budget will cover the patients' care."

    To......."Benton said he wants more money to cover the budget shortfall"