PHOENIX - Inspectors returned to Arizona's state mental hospital this week to determine if the facility has corrected serious deficiencies that put the lives of patients at risk.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is threatening to pull the Arizona State Hospital's certification after failing a September inspection that was triggered by an ABC15 report. If the hospital loses certification, it will also lose millions of dollars in federal reimbursements.
Multiple sources confirmed that CMS was at the hospital. The visit comes after releasing a scathing 46-page report about their last inspection.
A few of the key findings:
- The hospital has "systemic problems" with nursing care. Inspectors found there was a "failure to ensure that the number of RNs and other personnel met the facility's pre-determined staffing requirements to provide for patients' safety and care needs for 9 of 9 patients who sustained self-inflicted injury, assaulted others, or were assaulted by other patients."
- The hospital "endangers" the lives of patients. In the past several months, inspectors discovered the state hospital failed to properly care for six patients, who all required constant supervision. One of those patients was Chris Blackwell, who died after the hospital failed to prevent him from swallowing dangerous objects and then didn't give him proper medical care.
In November, state officials filed an official plan of correction. A federal spokesperson told ABC15 that CMS has accepted the hospital's plan but will make unannounced visits to "ensure the promised improvements have been made."
The ABC15 Investigators have learned of several recent safety and security lapses that cast serious doubt that some of the most serious deficiencies have been corrected.
On January 17, a patient was able to steal an employee's badge, use it to get out of his unit, get past security checkpoints and enter another wing of the hospital where he violently assaulted another patient, sources said.
The attacked patient was supposed to be under constant watch by two staff members to protect him from himself and others.
The patient who escaped his unit also assaulted a second patient in November. That assault sent the victim to the hospital for almost two weeks with serious injuries.
Both incidents highlight deficiencies the hospital was supposed to fix.
State health and hospital officials have not gotten back to ABC15 with details about the January 17 incident. They've also declined to comment about the ongoing CMS inspection case.
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