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Central Regional another signal of troubled system

Posted December 3, 2008
Updated December 12, 2008

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— Central Regional Hospital in Butner is the third state mental health facility over the past two years that has been in jeopardy of losing reimbursements for federal medical insurance programs.

Some health care experts say it is the latest example of a state health care system that is broken and in need of fixing.

A 131-page federal report released Tuesday shows example after example of policies not followed and standards not met at the new psychiatric hospital, including one incident in which an 8-year-old was restrained inappropriately for two hours.

"It's alarming. It's appalling. It leaves me speechless," said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina, a group mandated by Congress to monitor and ensure the safety of patients with disabilities.

Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro lost federal funding in September. Broughton Hospital in Morganton lost funding last year.

The state is expected to incur about $800,000 a month in costs associated with Cherry Hospital's losing its funding. It's unclear what it would cost the state if Central Regional, which also has a Raleigh campus at the site formerly called Dorothea Dix Hospital, loses its authorization to collect federal reimbursements.

State Division of Mental Health officials said Wednesday that they continue to be concerned with ongoing issues throughout the system and that they are aggressively dealing with them.

The state has until Dec. 8 to file a corrective action plan for Central Regional. If the plan is not approved, federal funding will be terminated on Dec. 14.

Dr. Harold Carmel, a consulting professor of psychiatry at Duke University, said that what federal surveyors were looking for on their visits to the hospitals is standard and that hospital workers should have understood what was required.

"They should have understood what the surveyors would be looking for," Carmel said. "This points to leadership, and it points to how care is organized."

Experts and advocates now look to Governor-elect Beverly Perdue to help turn the system around.

"I understand that what is going on is not right. I understand it's my responsibility to find a good secretary (of the Department of Health and Human Services) and a good leader of the Division of Mental Health to make sure we put ourselves back on a course of proper health care," Perdue said.

Perdue says she will be hands-on, with clear goals and accountability.

"Can I give you names and promises right now? No. But you give me a year or so and you're going to be mighty happy with what we've done," she said.

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  • nic Dec 4, 2008

    Now maybe some people will understand why Dix employees were fighting the move. It isn't about the far drive, but safety issues. Central Regional was not ready to open and policy and procedures were not in place and not enough training was done. Now Dix is in jepordy of losing fedral funding because the administration just decided to use Dix's provider number and make Dix another campus of Central Regional. They couldn't have screwed this up more if they tried.

  • exxe75 Dec 3, 2008

    It seems that privatization of the state health system not only abandoned those in need of mental healthcare, but it has cost more money and more embarassment for the state as well. The mental hospitals were in better shape before Easley and his men decided to move on this failed plan. Now almost none of these hospitals have no federal funding. Now, the state has to eat all of the cost of running them. Don't think Perdue and her administration will be able to fix this mortal wound with a bandaid. And how long has Dix been scheduled to close? I don't think it will ever close because it is a needed hospital. The fatcats in Raleigh need to find another place to build their self-gratifying high rise structures, and let Dix keep on doing what it can do to rescue NC's mentally ill from being totally forgotten and abandoned.

  • kandy Dec 3, 2008

    Perdue says to give her a year... how many more patients will be injured or treated poorly in a year! Change takes time, but a year is not going to cut it in this case. They need to look at the administration of the hospitals and DHHS to see where and who failed to do what. Dempsey was given an impossible situation to fix under the current leadership. The Good Ole Boys need to be removed from positions of power and put some qualified people in place who can take action -fast.