The agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid has approved a plan by the Brattleboro Retreat to correct problems found during a recent inspection. The psychiatric hospital was warned that its Medicare and Medicaid contract would end unless it filed correction plans by the beginning of this week.
The psychiatric hospital's most recent problems surfaced during a special inspection this summer, triggered by a fight in the hospital’s adolescent unit. The incident sent four employees to the hospital.
The inspection team found that the Retreat had acted properly in that case. But they found another issue involving inappropriate sexual behavior between two patients on its adolescent unit. The hospital was cited for not reporting the incident to its own quality improvement team. Retreat spokesman Peter Albert says the situation was reported to the state and reviewed on the unit where it occurred.
"Which is why part of our plan of correction is directed towards structuring our reporting so that there’s a check list of everything that needs to be done, and so that nothing is left to chance," Albert says.
The regulators said the Retreat should have done more to prevent contact between the patients. One of the youths had a history of sexual aggression. The other had been abused sexually and emotionally, according to the regulators’ report.
Albert says the hospital’s correction plan involves better communication, including more information on patient history in treatment plans, in team meetings and elsewhere. He acknowledges that the hospital has been cited in the past for insufficient information on treatment plans.
"The people that we serve deserve to be in a safe setting where they’re also going to get good clinical care," Albert says. "So that’s really what the focus is about. How we get there evolves over time.
We think that we’ve got a good core, solid approach, but we’re always willing and needing to look at ways to get better."
Northfield Rep. Anne Donahue is a member of the state’s Mental Health Oversight Committee. She says she thinks the Retreat is trying to get better, but she’s not sure that’s happening.
"In the sense that it’s the same problems and the same issues that CMS keeps coming back and finding more problems related to," Donahue says. "And that is the quality improvement process itself being inadequate."
Donahue says the Retreat is still awaiting a return inspection on problems cited earlier this summer by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. She says some are related to recent suicide attempts.
Peter Albert of the Retreat says the hospital is constantly getting better, in the midst of many changes in the state’s mental health care system. He says he’s confident the Retreat will pass inspection when regulators return for an unannounced inspection, sometime within the next month.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Peter Albert.