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Patient's suicide try could cost mental hospital U.S. money

Posted March 6, 2009
Updated March 7, 2009

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— Federal inspectors investigating a suicide attempt by a patient at Central Regional Hospital have again placed the state's newest mental health facility in jeopardy of losing federal funding.

Central Regional officials reported a Feb. 26 suicide attempt to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. An investigation revealed deficiencies that if left uncorrected, could cost the hospital access to Medicare and Medicaid funds, CMS inspectors told hospital officials.

This marks the fourth time that CMS has threatened to withdraw federal funds since the hospital opened eight weeks ago.

Mental hospital in jeopardy of losing federal funds again Mental hospital at risk of losing federal funds again

Central Regional officials said they planned to quickly submit a plan of correction by a March 28 deadline. The hospital must also pass a re-inspection by then.

The hospital has not released any details of the suicide attempt or the deficiencies.

“We are taking this matter seriously, which is why we self-reported this incident to federal investigators,” said Lanier Cansler, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

“The hospital has already taken quick steps to prevent a repeat occurrence," Cansler continued. "I will take whatever additional steps are necessary to correct the deficiencies that CMS identifies to ensure we have strong policies in place that are well-communicated to all our staff and that our hospital is safe.”

CMS is the U.S. agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid programs. Central Regional gets approximately $1.2 million in reimbursements for treating patients on the federal insurance programs.

Since opening in July, Central Regional has been in jeopardy of losing funding several times.

Most recently, inspectors found dangerous conditions, including unreported patient abuse, and said that the facility had not implemented procedures to protect patients from falls. State health officials said last month that inspectors had indicated they would recommend continued federal funding.

Safety at Central Regional has long been a concern of patient advocates, and as a result, its opening was delayed multiple times and not all patients have been moved there. State health officials have insisted that the facility is safe.

Central Regional was built to house patients from the former John Umstead Hospital in Butner and Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh.

In September, however, a judge granted a temporary restraining order delaying the move of 170 adult patients from Dix, saying the likelihood of harm to patients outweighs the state's need to move patients.

Dix and Umstead are still open and operate as subsidiary campuses of Central Regional.

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  • terrie Mar 6, 2009

    "The majority of mental patients are dangerous..."

    This is a dangerous misconception. The majority of mental patients are not a danger to others. Many are a danger to themselves. Basically, a decade ago the state of North Carolina decided if they had fewer beds for psychiatric patients, they would find care "in the community". In other words, when we build it, they will leave. They haven't left. They are just stuck with fewer resources and intolerable conditions. Those who work in the hospitals (emphasis on "work", not just get paid) are under constant pressure from administrators and legislators who refuse to do anything to help patients or those who care for them. It's easy to fire a technician who works 12 hours a day for $8 an hour. Why don't Mike Hennecke and Lanier Cansler spend just one 8 hour shift caring for patients? That would come to about $500 an hour at their salaries.

  • annemarek Mar 6, 2009

    People criticize the mental health institutions without even knowing what mental patients are and what they are capable of. The majority of mental patients are dangerous. I am not talking about people who have simple diagnosis such as depression or anxiety disorders. Some are suicidal and homicidal. Aggressive and dangerous are words that come to mind. The people that are hospitalized for mental disorders do not sit quietly suffering from their inflictions. The are active, aggressive and hostile. There is no reasoning with a paranoid schizophrenic. There is no reasoning with a person suffering from acute psychosis. To maintain a safe environment there needs numerous safety precautions and highly trained staff. This all takes money. None of us work for nothing. If the institutions don’t have all these resources there is danger to staff and patients

  • hdonthefarm Mar 6, 2009

    Even though I'll be the first to say administration at the state hospitals is a joke, the key to this report is that this was a suicide "attempt", not a suicide. My guess is that some peon tech or nurse stopped a tragedy from occurring, but will probably be written up for something. The front line staff tries to protect patients, but no backing comes from above.

  • asjdiw Mar 6, 2009

    You people don't have a clue. Hey, but why not comment any way?

  • sceeter Mar 6, 2009

    In that the story didn't say; if a patient has come in on "suicide watch" and then somehow attempted to while inpatient, then yes.. someone dropped the ball in there in regards to "watching" the patient. If the patient wasn't suicidal going in but then decided to attempt while in there, which does happen cause the hospitals can drive one suicidal if they weren't to start with, then yes... workers can't really be held responsible.

    Someone in for suicide isn't supposed to be left alone, or unguarded, or unwatched, or left with items - tools - gadgets - or means to come up with any attempts. Personal items that are considered potential threats are to be thoroughly searched upon arrival and each package/bag brought by family/friends with items securely locked away & asked for only in the presence of an employee.

    The point being... the hospital is to keep you safe from yourself if you are a danger to yourself especially when admitted as such.

  • readerman Mar 6, 2009

    How many second chances do these people get? They are constantly at risk of losing funding. Just pull the funding and keep it away until they get their act together. The mental health system in this state appears to be the biggest threat to patient safety. I sure wouldn't want anyone I cared about in one of their death traps.

  • annemarek Mar 6, 2009

    From what I understand Central Regional is dangerous to staff. The design is very poor and has no physical barriers for staff from the patients. Yes, these patients are very dangerous. Why doesn’t the public know about issues of staff safety? Better qualified workers will not work in such surroundings.
    As for suicide how is anyone going to stop a person who is determined to commit suicide stop committing suicide. An order for physical restraints is not easy to get and you need well qualified workers to implement patient safely. I am tired of staff being blamed for issues that they have no control over. The public is ignorant about such issues

  • foetine Mar 6, 2009

    Is there a single responsible adult in charge of this place? This place has defined the inmates running the asylum.

  • djofraleigh Mar 6, 2009

    The story says NOTHING to inform us of what happened. Did the hospital leave a window open, a sharp object out, a door ajar, ropes in the rooms? I assume something akin to the above, some common sense error.

    Maybe the state should contract out mental health services to Lowest bidders???

  • Jinmyname Mar 6, 2009

    The mental Health system in NC is a Joke! This hospital does not even meet the minimal standard. Really follow the patients who enter these walls and see if they have any chance of success. Mayeb one day they will get it together, but as a child of someone who has entered these walls several times. I really am not hopeful.

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