Government & Politics

Osawatomie State Hospital dodges threat of lost federal funding

Osawatomie State Hospital, about 50 miles southwest of Kansas City, is one of two psychiatric hospitals operated by the state of Kansas.
Osawatomie State Hospital, about 50 miles southwest of Kansas City, is one of two psychiatric hospitals operated by the state of Kansas. The Wichita Eagle

With work under way on more than $3 million in safety improvements at Osawatomie State Hospital in Kansas, federal authorities have lifted their threat to terminate Medicare and Medicaid payments to the psychiatric facility.

The Department of Health and Human Services had threatened to stop paying Osawatomie this month after an inspection in January found that the hospital was out of compliance with numerous safety standards for preventing patient injuries and suicides. Inspectors also found that members of the nursing staff weren’t adequately monitoring patients’ health, which led to the death of a patient with a medical condition.

On Monday, federal officials told the hospital that it had made sufficient progress to allow Medicare and Medicaid payments to continue. The payments amount to about one-fourth of the hospital’s $26 million annual budget.

The hospital has been replacing patient beds and mattresses, installing new bathroom fixtures, replacing suspended ceilings and making other changes designed to eliminate things that could be used for choking or hanging, or that could be turned into weapons.

“We’re just very happy with yesterday’s outcome,” Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which operates Osawatomie, said Tuesday. “We’ve made a great deal of progress. We’ll continue working with (HHS) to comply.”

Osawatomie State Hospital, about 50 miles southwest of Kansas City, is one of two psychiatric hospitals operated by the state. This is the second time in recent months that federal regulators have threatened to take away its Medicare and Medicaid funding.

An October inspection, prompted by several complaints, found that the hospital was severely overcrowded and that patients’ health was jeopardized. The state responded by restricting admissions to the hospital and making other changes that averted the loss of federal money.

A more thorough inspection in January turned up the problems with the hospital’s suicide prevention measures and led to the second threat to stop payments.

Osawatomie still has issues involving patient discharge planning, medical records and other policies left to address. HHS officials said they are awaiting a plan from the hospital to correct these problems and will set a deadline for completion. If the hospital misses that deadline, it again could face the loss of Medicare and Medicaid.

To reach Alan Bavley, call 816-234-4858 or send email to abavley@kcstar.com.

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