The state mental hospital in eastern Kansas failed to regain federal certification after a survey in May, though state officials said Friday that federal inspectors' report showed that safety and patient care had improved significantly.
Kansas will continue to lose up to $1 million a month in federal funds that are being withheld until a 60-bed unit at Osawatomie State Hospital is recertified. The federal government revoked the hospital's certification in December 2015 over safety, staffing and patient care issues.
Officials at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services described the survey outcome as a "pause" or "halt" in the state's efforts to regain certification. The state must correct the latest deficiencies found at the hospital, and it probably will have to undergo at least two more federal surveys, Secretary Tim Keck told legislators.
But Keck said he and other KDADS officials are encouraged because federal inspectors did not cite the same problems in their latest report. The report instead raised questions about the strength of hospital policies and cited problems with its kitchen and food services for patients that Keck said already are being fixed.
"We're really happy with the result, as much as you can be for getting a halt in the process, but we're determined to go ahead to get certification," Keck said.
Department officials on Friday briefed a small group of legislators active in hospital issues, with The Associated Press the only news organization present. The department also released more than 90 pages of documents.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notified the CEO of the Osawatomie hospital unit June 9 that the hospital would not regain certification because it is "not in substantial compliance" with federal standards.
Legislators had a mixed reaction after the briefing, with Reps. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican, and Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Kansas City Democrat, saying they were encouraged by improvements at the hospital, particularly in patient care. Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, said she was disappointed because she's worried about the continued loss of federal funds.
Also, Kelly saw issues about the hospital's kitchen and its handling of food for patients as significant. The survey said the kitchen "was not maintained in a safe and sanitary fashion," citing problems with equipment and cleanliness.
"That is a huge a part of what goes on in an institution," Kelly said.
Keck said the hospital is working with its private contractor to resolve the problem found by the surveyors but the state also is considering changing vendors.
Kansas is seeking to regain federal certification only for a single unit after federal officials required extensive renovations designed to eliminate patient suicide risks. Those renovations cost nearly $1.3 million.
But the hospital lost its certification over what federal surveyors described as a "systemic failure" to protect suicidal patients, adequately supervise care and perform required safety checks.
"We need to take some more steps to get to where we need to be, but our staff is providing excellent care," Keck said. "None of the deficiencies that we had before are in what you'll see here."
The entire hospital has 206 beds, but it has been limiting its patient population to 146 for months because of issues raised by past federal surveys. Keck said the hospital hopes to increase its capacity to 158 beds by mid-July following increases in staffing and state funding.