Local News

Mental hospital's funding jeopardized again

Posted March 16, 2009 2:55 p.m. EDT

— Central Regional Hospital could lose access to Medicare and Medicaid funds in two weeks unless officials prove they have fixed deficiencies that allowed a patient to attempt suicide last month.

This marks the fourth time that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, or CMS, has threatened to withdraw federal funds since the hospital opened last summer.

Central Regional officials reported a Feb. 26 suicide attempt to CMS, and federal inspectors said the hospital didn't take the appropriate actions to prevent a 21-year-old woman from trying to hang herself.

The woman was left unattended, despite the fact that she told a nurse she intended to hang herself with a bedsheet and that a physician had ordered that she be placed under constant observation, according to a report released Monday.

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.

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.

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.