CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Federal regulators are giving Eleanor Slater Hospital until August to come into compliance after discovering a patient rights violation, warning they’re otherwise prepared to eliminate the facility’s Medicare contract.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services outlined the warning in a letter addressed to Richard Charest, director of the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, who oversees the long-term behavioral and psychiatric facility that provides health care to about 200 people.
Federal officials said the hospital had made progress on previous non-compliance issues identified during a survey last September, but when they made an unannounced on-site investigation in April they found additional problems related to patient rights.
“It was determined that non-compliance was of such a nature that it reached the level of Immediate Jeopardy,” wrote Roxanne Rocco, manager of the federal agency’s Northeast Acute & Continuing Care Branch.
Rocco said the hospital had until Aug. 15 to fix the issue or else “CMS may initiate administrative steps to terminate the hospital’s Medicare agreement.” The contract brings in millions of dollars in federal support each year.
“Monitoring visits may be performed to determine your progress toward correcting the deficiencies,” Rocco wrote.
State spokesperson Randal Edgar said the publicly funded hospital is making progress toward solving its issues, pointing to recent approvals of corrective action plans recently submitted for CMS consideration.
“CMS’s approval of the three plans of correction indicates that the agency is satisfied with [Eleanor Slater Hospital’s] plans, including actions to be taken, timelines, systematic changes that are being made and how changes and improvements will be monitored,” Edgar said in a statement.
The hospital has been under intense scrutiny for several years, and R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha has been investigating patient safety and financial issues at the facility for more than a year.
Neronha spokesperson Blake Collins said Monday the investigation “remains pending.” Neronha recently told 12 News his office was making good progress.
Separately, a disability rights advocacy group recently launched an investigation into the death of a former patient who died suddenly two months after she was discharged. The group explained there was sufficient probable cause to launch the probe because the 38-year-old woman, who had been a patient at the state-run hospital’s psychiatric facility, died so soon after she was discharged earlier this year.
“She was discharged, untreated and unsupported, without even the most fundamental community service she needed to, literally, stay alive,” Disability Rights Rhode Island executive director Morna Murray said in a statement. “We vow to not let her death be in vain as we investigate the failures of the systems that are intended to protect the most vulnerable among us, and instead too often lead to harm and even death.”