Local News

Hospital officials insist Central Regional is safe

Posted June 19, 2008 6:36 p.m. EDT
Updated June 19, 2008 9:34 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's new mental health facility in Butner has been mired in controversy and safety concerns, but hospital officials said Thursday that it's ready to open.

All the concerns at Central Regional Hospital have either been addressed or have been deemed to pose no threat or a very low risk.

Patients from John Umstead Hospital in Butner are scheduled to move the week of July 14; patients at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh could move in August, the Department of Health & Human Services says.

"This hospital is safer today than our existing hospitals we're moving out of," Dr. Stephen Oxley, Central Regional's clinical director, said Thursday.

The hospital's opening has been delayed four times. In January, DHHS Secretary Dempsey Benton delayed the closing of Umstead and Dorothea Dix to improve the operations at Central Regional and to allow sufficient time to address construction and safety issues.

Last month, inspectors reported serious issues that could potentially put patients at risk. But Oxley insists all issues have been addressed.

For example, grab bars in private bathrooms could allow patients to commit suicide by hanging. They have since been retrofitted with a steel plate to make sure patients cannot tie sheets or clothing around them.

For the same reason, showerheads have a special shape that prevents something from being tied to them.

Glass throughout the building is shatterproof. Access to the roof has been addressed – steps have been removed and deadbolt locks have been added to doors.

"(These issues were) resolved through a group effort, not an individual's opinion about the matter," said Rodney Axman, Central Regional's chief of facilities planning and architectural services.

The facility cost more than $120 million and is more than 480,000 square feet.