LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Psych Hospital Faces Loss of Medi-Cal, Medicare Funds
State health inspectors yesterday were expected to submit a report to HCFA on "whether Edgemont [Hospital] meets standards for continued participation in the Medicare and Medi-Cal programs," the Los Angeles Times reports. The state launched a full-scale investigation into the private, east Hollywood psychiatric hospital this month after three male patients died within five weeks. According to Brenda Klutz of the state DHS, investigators found "major systems problems" at the 61-bed hospital. A court declaration by Edgemont CEO Geri Beutler revealed that "the most serious issues appear to be in the area of pharmacy management." Inspectors discovered a nurse practitioner giving drugs outside of her authority and claimed that the hospital had prescribed methadone in violation of DEA rules. Beutler's court summary also said that investigators expressed concerns about "the pharmacist's competence, patients' use of medications brought in from the outside, the lack of 'basic' pharmacy safety policies and procedures and the lack of availability of some drugs." Hospital officials have since removed methadone from use for pain management, even though "this deprives patients of appropriate and necessary ... treatment," Beutler said. Meanwhile, citing concerns for patient safety, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health already has forbidden the facility from admitting any more involuntarily committed patients and has started its own inquiry through its Office of Patient Rights. But hospital attorney Tom Gibilisco said officials' reactions are "unfair and overblown," arguing that the patients -- two of whom had AIDS and all of whom had substance abuse problems -- died in the "natural course of their disease process." According to Gibilisco, independent experts hired by the hospital found in each case that neither the facility nor its staff "contributed to these deaths." The three deaths are "a statistical aberration, nothing more," he said. The hospital, which has come under investigation two other times in the past four years, has at least 23 days to draft a plan of correction (Marquis, 2/22).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.