If the spigot were to remain shut off for a year, it would cost the state $50 million in lost funding and affect 590 indigent psychiatric patients.
The notice, posted on the website of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, says the termination is effective Friday at the sprawling, publicly funded psychiatric hospital in Middletown.
“The Medicare provider agreement between the Connecticut Valley Hospital and the secretary of Health and Human Services terminated on Oct. 27, 2017 due to their failure to meet Medicare’s basic health and safety requirements,” the notice states.
A CMS official told The Courant Thursday afternoon that an inspection in mid-September found that the well-being of patients was in “immediate jeopardy.”
“That put the hospital on a short track to termination,” the official said, adding that if the hospital was able to correct those critical safety issues by Friday, “it could extend their termination date.”
If the funding ceases Friday, the goal would be to win reinstatement as quickly as possible, said Mary Kate Mason, a spokeswoman for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, which runs the hospital.
The maximum security Whiting Forensic Division, which is part of the hospital, treats those acquitted of crimes by reason of mental defect. Whiting is the target of a criminal investigation into the alleged mistreatment of a patient. Thirty-seven workers have been placed on leave and 10 of them have been arrested.
There have also been previous state and federal investigations into a cluster of suicides on campus and safety concerns in the aging buildings.
Ending federal funding would also end federal oversight at Connecticut Valley Hospital.
The state Department of Public Health conducted inspections at CVH and Whiting as an “agent” for the federal government, but that would cease when the funding stops.
Maura Downes, spokeswoman for the public health agency, said her department is trying to craft an agreement with state mental health officials “that allows us to maintain a level of oversight at CVH’s Whiting Unit that is similar to what DPH had under CMS.”
“I assume that goal would extend to the whole hospital, if it is officially terminated from the Medicare provider agreement by CMS,” Downes said Thursday.
Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, co-chair of the public health committee, said the hospital can ill afford to lose the oversight, given the allegations of cruelty and patient abuse at Whiting. The activity that led to the 10 arrests was captured on surveillance video, but it took a whistleblower to prompt mental health officials to look at the raw footage.
It costs $567,000 to treat one patient for one year at CVH. State auditors have also reported excessive overtime at CVH and its Whiting unit. The 10 workers who were charged with cruelty to persons, a felony, and the other 27 workers who have been suspended with pay but not charged, collectively earned several hundred thousand dollars in overtime alone in the last fiscal year. Six-figure earnings for people with $60,000 base salaries is common.
The federal notice states that CVH has been notified that Medicare will stop paying for services furnished to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries admitted after Friday, although payment may continue for up to 30 calendar days for patients admitted on or before Friday.
It is not immediately clear what the effects of the termination will be on Connecticut Valley Hospital. The campus will be the subject of a legislative public hearing in November. The hearing was triggered by the abuse at Whiting but could cover other issues, including management lapses, excessive overtime and the state’s exposure to costly lawsuits and enforcement action by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We are closely monitoring the relocation of Medicare and Medicaid patients to other facilities,” CMS said in its notice.
“Involuntary termination of a provider agreement is generally a last resort after all other attempts to remedy the deficiencies at a facility have been exhausted.
“In this instance,” the notice continues, CMS’ certification and enforcement team has found that Connecticut Valley Hospital remains “out of compliance with … basic health and safety requirements. While we understand the relocation of residents and patients can be challenging for all parties involved, CMS prioritizes patient safety and care quality.”