04/03/11 — Cherry Hospital again facing federal sanctions

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Cherry Hospital again facing federal sanctions

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 3, 2011 1:50 AM

Cherry Hospital is once again facing the prospect of serious sanctions from federal officials after a March incident in which a teenager ran away from the facility.

State Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Mark Van Sciver announced in a press release Friday that the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare had "verbally notified the hospital it would recommend a finding of immediate jeopardy -- the term used by CMS to indicate that a problem exists at a facility that CMS feels compromises the health or safety of patients."

Van Sciver said CMS surveyors were on the Cherry Hospital Campus Tuesday through Thursday investigating the incident -- which occurred on March 12 -- and the hospital's response to it. The adolescent was returned safely to the facility by local law enforcement officials on March 22.

He said the state psychiatric facility reviewed its procedures immediately following the incident and instituted new policies and training, but that as a result of its investigation, CMS had required additional improvements, which the hospital has made and received approval for.

But that wasn't enough to dissuade the CMS surveyors last week from recommending a finding of immediate jeopardy.

Whether or not that finding is confirmed and the hospital is penalized, however, will be decided once the official written report is submitted to CMS. If it is confirmed, hospital officials will then submit their official plan of correction, and CMS surveyors will return sometime within 23 days to conduct a full survey of the facility.

In May 2010, the hospital faced an immediate jeopardy finding for failure to provide patient care in a safe setting.

In 2008, the hospital was placed under immediate jeopardy and ultimately lost its federal certifications in September 2008 following a CMS investigation into the April 2008 death of 50-year-old patient Steven Sabock, who had been left unattended sitting in a chair in a dayroom for 22 hours. The loss of federal certifications resulted in the loss of approximately $800,000 a month until it regained its certifications in August 2009.

Calls to Cherry Director Philip Cook and other hospital administrators were referred to the state DHHS office of public affairs.

Cherry serves patients from 38 eastern North Carolina counties.

Construction is currently under way on a new, three-story $138 million hospital, with completion expected by the end of 2012.