Nevada Patient Busing

Nevada mental hospital may lose accreditation, discharge policies cited

The nonprofit organization that accredits health organizations nationwide has issued a preliminary denial of accreditation for a Las Vegas hospital that has discharged and bused hundreds of mentally-ill patients across the county.

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital came under fire after the Bee reported in February that it had bused a patient, James Flavy Coy Brown, to Sacramento, where he knew no one and had never visited. The Bee subsequently reported that the hospital had bused about 1,500 mentally ill patients out of Nevada in the last five years.

The Joint Commission, which accredits more than 4,000 health organizations, found the hospital out of compliance with 22 standards, many of them related to the proper discharge of patients. The decision to issue a preliminary denial of accreditation was confirmed by the board at a meeting last week, said commission spokeswoman Elizabeth Eaken Zhani.

For now, the decision will have little impact. The hospital can appeal the denial and keep its accreditation throughout the appeal process, Zhani said.

The hospital’s reputation and some of its funding could be at stake.

The federal Medicare system deems accredited hospitals to meet conditions for federal funds.

Losing accreditation wouldn't cause those funds to disappear, but it would remove a buffer between the hospital and a key source of funding, said Steven Hirsch, owner of Steven Hirsch and Associates, a southern California health care consulting firm.

Also, private insurance companies usually will not pay hospitals unless they are accredited.

Mary Woods, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, minimized the possible financial consequences of losing accreditation. She said 85 percent of patients at Rawson-Neal have “no insurance, nothing.” The remaining 15 percent of patients rely on Medicare, and the federal government, not the Joint Commission, decides whether to rescind that funding.

"We are disappointed by the Joint Commission’s decision to move for a preliminary denial of accreditation, which appears to be based on outdated survey information and is not an accurate reflection of the hospital’s current practices and policies," Mike Willden, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. The hospital is determining whether to appeal, Woods said.

Call The Bee's Phillip Reese, (916) 321-1137. Follow him on Twitter @PhillipHReese. Updated at 3:24 p.m. to add comment from Nevada state officials and clarify details about funding.

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