03/15/09 — Review of patient death at O'Berry continues

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Review of patient death at O'Berry continues

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 15, 2009 2:00 AM

State officials confirmed Friday that investigators from the federal Centers of Medicare and Medicaid are at O'Berry Center following the death of a female resident on March 11.

"We have been informed that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have arrived at O'Berry Center," said Mark Van Sciver, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. "We expect them to be there three to four days."

CMS is the federal agency that oversees federal Medicare and Medicaid funding. Previous investigations by the agency into reports of patient abuse at Cherry Hospital and Central Regional Hospital in Butner have resulted in the loss of federal funding for those facilities.

It is unclear what the effect of CMS' involvement will be for O'Berry.

"We won't know anything until after they finish their survey," he said.

The incident, which officials have said did not involve abuse, also is under investigation by Cherry Hospital police and the Medicaid Investigation Unit of the state Attorney General's office.

State officials however, have characterized the circumstances surrounding the death as "unusual."

While the investigations are ongoing, four employees -- two supervisors and two health care technicians -- have been placed on paid investigatory leave, in line with Gov. Beverly Perdue and department Secretary Lanier Cansler's new zero-tolerance policy.