Local News

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

Posted March 6, 2009 3:27 p.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2009 7:40 a.m. EST

— 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.

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.