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AZ mental hospital passes federal re-inspection

Posted at 3:55 PM, Sep 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-29 18:55:22-04

The Arizona state mental hospital has passed a federal re-inspection and will not lose its certification, officials said Tuesday.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, or CMS, restored the Arizona State Hospital’s “deemed status." However, officials said some deficiencies still exist and need to be corrected.

The state hospital failed its first inspection by CMS in May.

The inspection was triggered by a lengthy series of ABC15 reports that exposed widespread abuse and misconduct. Top officials told ABC15 that federal inspectors were using the station’s reports to guide their investigation.

In a 67-page report, inspectors highlighted a long list of “serious deficiencies” found throughout the hospital and its administration.

In response to ABC15’s investigation and the CMS report, a total of six top health department and hospital executives have lost their jobs.

The new administration led by health department Director Dr. Cara Christ promised sweeping reforms and submitted a plan of correction to CMS in June. The reforms included:

  • Purchasing and installing 57 new cameras throughout the facility and improving the hospital’s video storage capacity. The new cameras cost $105,000, records show.
  • The hospital re-trained staff and instituted new policies and staffing requirements to improve patient supervision.
  • The hospital reviewed every patient’s medical files to make sure they have current care and treatment plans. This comes after inspectors checked 23 patients’ files and found none of them were up to date and were missing important information. Christ said the finding was “unacceptable.”
  • The hospital is instituting mandatory monthly and weekly audits to make sure patient's medical files stay current.
  • A review of patients’ files to ensure they are able to consent to sexual activity. Federal inspectors documented a case involving patients exchanging a soda for sex without clear documentation that either patient was capable of consent.
  • The hospital is hiring several new positions, which will oversee compliance with federal rules and regulations as well as make sure investigations and patient grievances are addressed. The hospital is also hiring 10 new security positions, Christ said.

In a written statement regarding the results of the most recent CMS inspection, Dr. Christ said, "Under new leadership within the state hospital, our team took a proactive approach to quality management within the system. We will continue to look for process improvement within our organization to meet emerging patient needs and retain top talent in patient care."

The failed federal inspection was the second in recent years. The hospital nearly lost its certification in late 2013 after ABC15 exposed troubling details about a patient's unnecessary death.

A separate independent investigation into past mismanagement at the Arizona State Hospital is still ongoing. The investigation is being led by retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice Ruth McGregor.

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