Despite Investigation, Van Nuys Children’s Hospital Considers Reopening
Officials at a Van Nuys-based children's psychiatric hospital that voluntarily closed in February are considering reopening the facility, despite two pending investigations into alleged "patient abuse and substandard care" and the threat that HCFA may not recertify the hospital for government reimbursements, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Children's Community Mental Health Center is being investigated by the licensing and certification division of the county Health Services Department over a "broad range of alleged deficiencies," including the Jan. 31 death of an 8-year-old boy who suffered a seizure at the facility. The public interest law firm Protection and Advocacy Inc. is conducting a second investigation into the death. A county coroner probe, however, has concluded that the boy died of a heart infection that does not appear to be the result of any wrongdoing at the facility, and police have since closed their investigation into the matter. Prior to the facility's voluntary closure, the county Department of Mental Health told hospital officials that it would not refer any new patients to the facility. Brent Lamb, president of the children's hospital, said that it closed not because of quality issues but because "it could not financially operate without the medical reimbursements it received from the county."
While hospital officials say the facility could "reopen without county permission" within 90 days, the Times reports that the county might not refer to the hospital the "young patients ... who had constituted the vast majority of the patient population." Moreover, the hospital would need new certification from HCFA to receive government reimbursements. Lamb "insisted that the ... agency was ready to recertify the hospital for operation," but Stan Marcisz, HCFA's director of long term care operations, told the Times that the agency "had been moving toward terminating the hospital's certification -- unless it fixed its problems -- at the time it closed." According to county documents, the hospital was under investigation for alleged instances of abuse of mentally ill children, sexual assaults among children, "slipshod records" and "a lack of essentials," including blankets and toilet paper (Krikorian, Los Angeles Times, 4/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.