A top Kansas official said he hesitates to propose renovating all of Osawatomie State Hospital until he knows federal inspectors will give the state a “fair shake.”
Federal officials cut Medicare payments to OSH in December after inspectors found safety issues, including patients assaulting one another and the sexual assault of an employee. Losing the payments has cost the state about $1 million per month.
Tim Keck, interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told the Legislative Post Audit Committee on Wednesday afternoon that he thinks KDADS soon will be ready for federal inspectors to return and verify that two 30-bed units at OSH are up to standards.
OSH has made strides in hiring more staff and training them, with the help of pay increases approved by the Legislature, he said.
“Patients are getting better care than they were even six months ago,” he said.
Keck said the department also is looking into partnering the Kansas Department of Commerce to train potential employees as certified nursing assistants and using 12-hour shifts to reduce the number of days employees work each week.
Federal officials had demanded that OSH renovate units in addition to fixing staffing issues if it wants to receive payments for Medicare-eligible patients treated in those parts of the hospital. The renovations were meant to reduce the risk that patients could harm themselves or each other using fixtures and furniture in their rooms or common areas. It costs between $600,000 and $700,000 to renovate a 30-bed unit, Keck said.
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, questioned why the department wouldn’t renovate all OSH units, given that it could recoup the investment in less than a year. Keck said the decision to renovate more units would depend on “how reasonably” federal officials treat the department.
“I think it would be imprudent without knowing we’re going to get a fair shake,” he said.
Concerns about ligature and patient suicide risks had never surfaced before early 2015, Keck said, and OSH officials were surprised by the changes federal officials demanded. The rules apparently changed after federal officials attended a training about ligature risks, he said.
“I don't want to say (it was on) a whim, but pretty close to a whim,” he said.
Rep. Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City Democrat, disputed Keck’s characterization of the issue and pointed to a Legislative Post Audit finding that the decertification resulted from violent incidents.
“I don't think the rape was related to a ligature issue. I think it was related to manpower,” he said.
Rep. Virgil Peck, a Tyro Republican, said OSH needs to start receiving federal payments again before July 2017 so state tax dollars don’t need to continue replacing federal payments. He also said the hospital should have corrected issues before the decertification.
“It looks like they had ample warnings,” he said.
Megan Hart is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach her on Twitter @meganhartMC