Local News

Federal inspector probing suicide attempt at mental hospital

Posted March 5, 2009 11:48 a.m. EST
Updated March 5, 2009 4:10 p.m. EST

— Patient concerns at two campuses of the state's newest mental health hospital in Butner have federal inspectors back investigating.

A state Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said Thursday that an inspector from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid arrived at Central Regional Hospital Wednesday after hospital administrators reported a suicide attempt, which occurred Feb. 26.

CMS inspectors also arrived Thursday at the hospital's John Umstead campus to respond to a complaint about poor conditions in the child and adolescent unit.

About 40 child mental patients are being treated at the facility, which served as an Army barracks and hospital during World War II.Advocates want the children to be treated at Central Hospital's main campus.

An environmental report released Thursday confirms concerns of patient advocates about mold and mildew in a children's gymnasium at Umstead. DHHS says the samples were taken in early February, a month after it closed the gym because of a December pipe leak that created ideal conditions for mold to grow.

The Central Regional facility houses a children's unit but those beds remain empty, hospital officials say, because it is not big enough to accommodate all the Umstead patients.

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 that the facility had not implemented procedures to protect patients from falls. Health officials said last months that inspectors indicated they will 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. 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.