Nevada Patient Busing

Nevada governor: Staffers fired in patient busing probe

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said today that an unspecified number of employees at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas have been fired as a result of an investigation into the hospital's practice of busing patients to other states.

"All individuals who violated release policies have been or will be disciplined," Sandoval said in a statement. "These disciplinary actions include terminations effective today."

Rawson-Neal and its umbrella agency, Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, have been under fire following a report in The Bee earlier this month showing that the hospital paid to transport about 1,500 mentally ill patients to other states via Greyhound bus since 2008. About one-third of those patients were dispatched to California, and 19 of them to Sacramento, according to The Bee's review of Greyhound bus receipts.

"While the investigation showed the vast majority of patient releases were done correctly, it also revealed policies were not followed by certain individuals," Sandoval said. "I will continue to evaluate the need for further action if necessary."

The statement did not say how many employees were fired, or what positions they held.

Sandoval also announced that the state has "obtained proposals from national experts in the mental health field to provide an objective and comprehensive analysis of our state facilities to ensure that best practices are being implemented and followed."

Following The Bee's report, the state is under investigation on several fronts. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday sent a letter to Nevada authorities saying Rawson-Neal, the state's primary mental health facility, was out of compliance with federal regulations and risked losing critical federal funding if the hospital failed to submit "evidence of correction." Meanwhile, the city attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco have opened criminal probes to see if Nevada engaged in systematic "patient dumping."

After defending the state's aggressive patient busing policy for several weeks, Nevada health officials changed course last week, announcing they would no longer pay to bus psychiatric patients to other states without a chaperone.

Call The Bee's Phillip Reese, (916) 321-1137.