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Dorothea Dix move delayed for fifth time

Posted September 25, 2008

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— A Superior Court judge granted a temporary restraining order Thursday that will delay for the fifth time the closure of Dorothea Dix Hospital.

About 170 adult patients were scheduled to move, beginning Oct. 1, from the state psychiatric hospital in Raleigh to the new $130 million Central Regional Hospital in Butner.

But Judge Allen Baddour, ruling on a class-action lawsuit that Disability Rights North Carolina filed Tuesday, said the likelihood of harm and potential harm to patients outweighs the state's position to move patients now.

The disability rights advocacy group cited concerns about remaining safety issues at Central Regional and claims that the state has failed to meet conditions for the move as outlined under state law.

It says it is not against the move but wants it to happen after all issues have been resolved.

Insisting the facility is safe and that any remaining concerns are in the process of being resolved, state attorneys for the Department of Health and Human Services had asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Postponing the move, the state says in its motion, would cost about $350,000 a month.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Oct. 6.

Michael Lancaster, co-director of the Division of Mental Health and interim director at Central Regional, said Thursday that Baddour's ruling is a disappointment but not a surprise.

John Rittelmeyer, an attorney for DRNC, said he is ready move forward with the case.

"We are prepared to move forward on Oct. 6 and prove to the judge's satisfaction that conditions at Central Regional Hospital are not currently adequate for the care of the additional 170 patients from Dorothea Dix," he said.

Federal regulators made an unannounced visit to Central Regional Wednesday to investigate complaints. DHHS officials have refused to comment on the inspection.

The lawsuit lists 15 concerns it says will not be corrected or fixed before Oct. 1, including issues with Central Regional's wireless system, which operates all communications.

"Whenever the system is 'down,' it must be treated as an emergency," the complaint states, and it claims that as recently as last week, neither phones nor pagers worked for more than an hour, "negatively affecting the treatment of an acutely ill patient."

The DRNC also points to problems with the hospital's emergency alert system, saying it averages 10 false alarms a day, resulting in staff ignoring the duress calls. And it states that staff have not received adequate training, which could compromise patient care.

Lancaster has said safety is the first priority at the new hospital. In a letter Tuesday, Lancaster addressed the number of false emergency alarms, saying they've decreased to fewer than two per shift.

He also talks about a number of concerns that arise by keeping patients at Dix, including outdated building codes and fire alarm systems and difficulties in having staff assigned to both hospitals.

"These are significant concerns about prolonging the occupation of these older buildings," Lancaster wrote.

Eventually, Central Regional will replace both Dix and John Umstead Hospital, which is also in Butner. Umstead patients moved to the facility in July.

But for Dix patients to move, state law requires assurances from two accrediting agencies. One, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, won't find Central Regional in compliance until patients move in, however.

27 Comments

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  • Newshound Sep 25, 2008

    $350,000 a month.
    now multiply that by the number of months the move has already been delayed, get over it dix and move already quit digging through the trash and calling the n&o when u find a marble that a patient "could" get choked on if allowed to play in the dumpster. The state should bill the rights group for any delay once the court decision is handed out on the states favor.

  • atc2 Sep 25, 2008

    This is a joke.

  • Z Man Sep 25, 2008

    This is just like Steve Howe getting banned from baseball for life... for the 8th time! What a bunch of incompetent boobs we have in state government.

  • michelle.s Sep 25, 2008

    Well this is a total shocker! HaHa!

  • h2opapillon Sep 25, 2008

    The LAWSUIT to delay the move is on the behalf of PATIENTS and PATIENT ADVOCATES who are rightly concerned about the safety issues which are Clearly detailed in this and other articles that no one seems to be reading. There is NO lawsuit on the behalf of employees that don't want to drive to Butner.

  • h2opapillon Sep 25, 2008

    A hospital with a communications system that is reliable only in that it is conistently unreliable is a HUGE health hazard. That's not just a glitch. That's a catastrphe. Not in any way acceptable for a health care facility. Common sense.

  • dragonslayer Sep 25, 2008

    From what I hear this is coming from people that work at Dix and do not want to drive to the new hospital in Butner .They have tried everything they can to stop the move but using disabled people is a new low . Work where you are told to and do your job like the rest of us do .

  • GoHeels1969 Sep 25, 2008

    "Are there any glitches in the system at Dix? Have they never had a system failure? Please...I'd say those patients and staff stand a better chance in a new state-of-the-art facility like CRH, instead of the crumbling of Dix."

    Don't forget than when a worker at Dix was injured by a patient about 2 months ago, somehow the Dix supporters cited that as a reason that Central was too dangerous?!

  • Anne N Sep 25, 2008

    So silly, waste of money.

  • Tolip Sep 25, 2008

    So is Lyndo Tiptoe running the DHHS as well as the DOT? What a bunch of used up, corrupt, incompetent losers! Is there a Dept in the State of Noth Calina that do its job correctly?

    Oh, yeah, the Dept. of Justice, you know the Parole Guys? umm, uh, mebbe not!

    Had enough yet Noth Calina?

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