PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITALS: Report Criticizes HCFA
Prompted by congressional concerns and media reports about the questionable safety at psychiatric hospitals, June Gibbs Brown, HHS inspector general, will release a report today criticizing HCFA's tracking system of psychiatric hospitals, calling the agency a "cash-strapped watchdog with poor record-keeping skills," the Washington Post reports. The 611 psychiatric hospitals that accept Medicare patients have been subject to increasingly infrequent inspections by HCFA experts, the HHS report charges, and some facilities "have not been surveyed (by state or federal inspectors) in over 5 years." Brown attributes the decline in HCFA surveys -- from 413 in fiscal year 1993 to a 146 in fiscal year 1998 -- to budget cuts at the HCFA. The agency's budget for the surveys fell from $3 million in 1993 to $670,000 in 1999. The report also censured HCFA officials for poor coordination with other groups responsible for overseeing psychiatric hospitals, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations (JCAHO). Recommendations included holding inspectors more accountable and establishing a regular timetable for surveys (Brubaker, 5/23).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.