New deficiencies at AZ mental hospital after follow-up inspection; certification no longer at risk

Arizona’s state mental hospital is no longer at risk of losing its federal certification but was found to have new deficiencies, according to an inspection report obtained by the ABC15 Investigators.

The Arizona State Hospital failed an inspection by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last year. The inspection was triggered by an ongoing ABC15 investigation , and CMS found the hospital repeatedly put patients in danger and failed to properly train and monitor its staff among other problems.

On March 10, the Arizona State Hospital was notified that it had passed a follow-up inspection by a state health department employee who conducted the inspection on behalf of CMS.

“While the survey found compliance with the Medicare (conditions of participation), there are standard level deficiencies cited,” the report states.

The ABC15 Investigators obtained the latest inspection report through a public records request to the CMS.

The latest deficiencies mirror similar problems discovered during the initial inspection that were found to have contributed to a patient’s death.

They include problems in the areas of medical “staff accountability,” “patient rights,” and “supervising of nursing care.”

Multiple times, the hospital either failed to document or evaluate patients’ medical conditions after they returned from the emergency room or were placed on a sick-call log, the report shows.

CMS also found that a new patient was able to swallow a foreign object and was not properly followed up with.

In those cases, the hospital “could not confirm the physician evaluated the patients,” the report said.

Those were similar deficiencies found after inspectors looked at the circumstances surrounding the death of patient Chris Blackwell.

Blackwell died from a severe stomach infection. His autopsy and other investigative records show that the state hospital failed to prevent him from swallowing dangerous objects and then did nothing to evaluate his medical condition.

His mother, Donna Baird, has filed a notice of claim against the state . She alleges that the hospital caused her son’s death and lied about the circumstances .

If Arizona doesn’t settle the case, Baird will file a lawsuit.  

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com .

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