Nevada officials challenge federal findings at two state psychiatric hospitals

Nevada officials are asking a federal agency to reconsider findings of violations at two state psychiatric hospitals.

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas and Dini-Townsend Psychiatric Hospital in Sparks have been found to be noncompliant with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In letters mailed to the federal agency on Aug. 16 and 22, state officials explain that provisions of the federal act impose special responsibilities on a hospital with a dedicated emergency department.

Rawson-Neal and Dini-Townsend don’t have emergency rooms and therefore are not governed by EMTALA, assert hospital officials in the letters.

The hospitals’ beds “are licensed as inpatient beds to serve adults with acute behavioral needs.” The letters are signed by Chelsea Szklany, Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services administrator, and Cody Phinney, Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services administrator.

“Survey did not identify problems with individuals being able to access our inpatient behavioral services,” according to the letters, which were almost identical.

Mary Woods, spokeswoman with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said officials hope the federal agency will “reconsider identifying those as deficiencies.”

“There’s a protocol in place for psychiatric hospitals and we feel that they were looking at the hospitals as if (they) were a medical emergency room,” she said. “That’s what we are questioning.”

Rawson-Neal was in violation of four EMTALA requirements. Those requirements include compliance with the policies and procedures, availability of on-call physicians, failure to provide appropriate medical screening and failure to provide stabilizing treatment. The nature of the violations at Dini-Townsend haven’t been released.

However, officials say they take the inspections seriously and they did identify some areas where they can make improvements related to documentation and the coordination of aftercare, the letters say.

Several improvements are underway at the hospitals to address those issues.

The violations at Dini-Townsend became known earlier this week, making it the third state facility for the mentally ill to come under fire in recent months.

Rawson-Neal lost its accreditation and was hit with a federal lawsuit in the aftermath of allegations of patient dumping and improper record keeping earlier this year. Scrutiny of the Las Vegas hospital became intense after Rawson-Neal discharged James F. Brown, 48, to Sacramento, Calif., in February with no support or family waiting for him.

Deficiencies about conditions of participation in the Medicare program were also found at Rawson-Neal.

This month, a lawsuit involving Lake’s Crossing, the state’s only maximum-security psychiatric facility, came to the attention of lawmakers. The lawsuit filed by the Clark County public defender’s office alleges that lengthy wait times for admittance to the facility is a violation of prisoners’ civil rights.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaroAreviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.