Embattled CVH Scrambles To Avert Loss of Millions in Medicare Funding

Officials at the state’s embattled psychiatric hospital in Middletown, cited for lapses in patient safety in three straight inspections since February, were scrambling Friday to avoid losing millions in Medicare funding.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a public notice that the funding — worth $50 million a year to this budget-strapped state — would end Friday for scandal-plagued Connecticut Valley Hospital.

But federal officials on Friday extended the termination deadline to Saturday night and are giving the hospital a chance to submit a correction plan. If an inspection on Saturday confirms that the health and safety deficiencies cited in a mid-September inspection have been fixed, the federal funding would continue.

Thirty-seven workers at the hospital’s Whiting Forensic Division have been suspended over allegations of patient abuse, and 10 of those workers have been arrested and charged with cruelty. Also, inspections of other patient buildings on the sprawling campus in February and May, obtained Friday by The Courant, identified safety lapses in the treatment of suicidal, violent, or vulnerable patients. The latest inspection report was not publicly available Friday. It had found that the well-being of patients was in “immediate jeopardy,” according to the termination notice.

In addition to a potentially crippling loss of federal money, the hospital faces having to relocate more than 500 patients to other facilities.

“It’s coming down to the wire, and they let it come down to the wire — the hospital had notice this was coming,” a federal official said of the termination action.The hospital would have been aware of the dire consequences shortly after the mid-September inspection, the official said.

“Of course, the best outcome is if they can fix the problems. No one wants to see 500 patients moved,” the official said Friday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, which runs the hospital, said the deadline was extended a day “while we work with [the federal Medicare and Medicaid agency] to address any deficiencies.”

The spokeswoman, Mary Kate Mason, said the department “is making every effort possible” to submit an acceptable correction plan and avoid termination.

In an inspection in February, surveyors found that treatment plans for profoundly ill and compromised patients were largely generic and lacked interventions that were tailored to the behavior of those patients.

For example, inspectors looked at the treatment plan for a nearly blind patient who sees only shadows and shapes, and who lashed out and punched another patient passing in the hall. The aggressive patient reported being “scared.”

Yet the inspectors found nothing in the patient’s treatment plan “related to specific monitoring” or “helping the patient to prevent further violence.”

The inspectors made the same finding for other patients that exhibited aggressive sexualized behavior, anger, delusional beliefs, and suicidal ideation.

“For these major safety issues, there are no specific monitoring, intervention, and prevention directions for nursing personnel,” the inspection report states.

In a May follow-up, the surveyors noted that idle time was excessive and asserted that a lack of structured activities “prevents and jeopardizes patients from achieving their optimal level of functioning, potentially delaying a timely discharge.”

It costs the public $567,000 to treat one patient for one year at Connecticut Valley Hospital. With about 565 patients at CVH, the total cost for a year exceeds $320 million.

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