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Medicare Termination Looms At Osawatomie Hospital

A federal agency has sent notice that Medicare payments to overcrowded Osawatomie State Hospital will be terminated, but state officials say they will address concerns before the deadline and avoid the termination.

Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said Tuesday that she was aware of the termination notice from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But she said the state has until Dec. 8 to correct deficiencies and will do so.

“I actually have a plan of correction that will be released no later than tomorrow,” Bruffett said.

Bruffett said the plan will address concerns about the number of mental health patients at Osawatomie State Hospital, an ongoing problem at the facility.

As of Tuesday the hospital was serving 221 patients, which is 15 above its 206-bed capacity. Bruffett said eight patients were scheduled to be discharged Tuesday.

Osawatomie State Hospital is the largest of the state’s two inpatient facilities for adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses. Prior to admission, most of the hospital’s patients have been declared a danger to themselves or others.

Bruffett said she is working with community partners, hospitals and behavioral health centers to find alternatives for Osawatomie patients. She said state law allows the facility to bar voluntary admissions in order to keep numbers down, but that should be a last resort.

“We don’t want that to be the outcome,” Bruffett said.

Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for KDADS, said the discharge process is complex and takes time, but it is working at Osawatomie State Hospital. She said the facility has a readmission rate that exceeds the standards of the Joint Commission, a national hospital accrediting organization.

De Rocha said overcrowding in mental health centers is a national phenomenon.

“Kansas isn’t alone,” de Rocha said. “There’s pressure on psychiatric facilities all over the country.”

Greg Valentine, superintendent of Osawatomie State Hospital from 2005 to 2011 and now CEO of the Delaware Psychiatric Center, said the Osawatomie facility received a similar termination notice shortly after he took over there and staff had to work hard for recertification.

“I’ve been through it, and you take it very seriously,” Valentine said.

Valentine said once the current administration puts its corrective plan in place at Osawatomie State Hospital, the facility will be surveyed again. Surveyors will be looking to see if the previous deficiencies have been addressed and for any new deficiencies, he said.

“They haven’t completely lost yet, the hospital,” Valentine said. “But it’s pretty serious; I don’t mean to diminish that.”

Andy Marso is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service based in Topeka.
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