Accreditation agency checks Las Vegas psych hospital accused of patient dumping
May 3, 2013
SACRAMENTO (AP) — Officials with an independent hospital-accreditation agency have arrived at a Nevada psychiatric facility for a visit that could help determine whether it retains its federal funding amid accusations of patient dumping.
Surveyors from the Joint Commission arrived unannounced Thursday at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas, The Sacramento Bee reported.
The agency's inspection also could help determine whether Rawson-Neal keeps its "gold star" accreditation status. Typically, hospitals that show action is being taken to fix problems don't lose funding or accreditation, the newspaper reported.
The move came in the wake of an investigative series by the Bee involving James F. Brown, who suffered from schizophrenia and depression and was given a one-way bus ticket in February to Sacramento, where he knew no one.
The newspaper reviewed bus ticket receipts dating to 2008 and determined the hospital — part of Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services — had transported about 1,500 patients to other states. About 500 went to California.
A review by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services identified 10 cases in which it was unclear whether staff members had confirmed the patient had family or a support system awaiting at his or her destination.
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"This information indicates that more than 99 percent of the time staff followed the discharge policy and documentation was accurate and complete," the agency said in a statement.
Two hospital employees were fired Monday following the review, and new policies have been implemented to strengthen oversight of patient discharges.
The state now requires two physicians instead of one to sign a discharge order.
A hospital administrator also must sign off on the decision.
Additionally, Nevada now requires chaperones to accompany all state psychiatric patients who are bused out of state.
Nevada health department officials said they expected a visit from the commission at some point.
"We welcome these inspections and reviews from highly trained professionals with outside views, because they help us either improve our current processes or affirm proper procedures are already in place," Nevada health department spokeswoman Mary Woods told the newspaper.