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National agency threatens to revoke Eleanor Slater Hospital’s accreditation

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Joint Commission has hit Eleanor Slater Hospital with a preliminary denial of accreditation, creating yet another challenge for the embattled state-run health care system.

The national agency, a well-known nonprofit that accredits more than 22,000 health care organizations nationwide, issued the preliminary decision on its website following a weeklong review of the problem-plagued hospital.

Gov. Dan McKee spokesperson Matt Sheaff said the governor has assigned Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones and recently appointed Director Richard Charest of the R.I. Department of Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospital to address “the many problems” identified in the preliminary report.

The two cabinet members will work together with the R.I. Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, along with its parent agency R.I. Department of Administration, Sheaff added.

“Secretary Jones and Director Charest have met with DCAMM and DOA to immediately establish a task force to address maintenance and facility issues laid out in the preliminary report,” Sheaff said. “The Joint Commission has given the state 20 days to address these issues.”

Sheaff said the agency’s report highlighted “ongoing management issues and deficiencies” within the hospital facilities, but he did not immediately provide specifics. The Joint Commission also did not elaborate on how it reached its decision.

“We cannot comment at this time since this is a new development and we are currently working to thoroughly review it,” spokesperson Maureen Lyons said in an email.

The Joint Committee’s website explains it issues a preliminary denial of accreditation “when there is justification to deny accreditation to the health care organization” because of one or more of the following:

  • An immediate threat to health or safety for patients or the public
  • Submission or falsified documents or misrepresented information
  • Lack of a required licenses or similar issue at the time of the survey
  • Failure to resolve the requirements of an accreditation with follow-up survey status
  • Patients having been placed at risk for serious adverse outcomes due to significant or pervasive patterns/trends/repeat findings, or significant noncompliance with Joint Commission standards

Sheaff also noted that “many of the same findings were identified in The Joint Commission’s report issued in 2017.”

In 2017, the Joint Commission likewise threatened to revoke the hospital’s accreditation, citing life and safety problems with the facilities. Specifically, the facilities had too many “ligature risks,” or areas that would make it easier for patients to commit suicide.

The issues were cited at the hospital’s Cranston campus, which has historically been where the state cares for psychiatric patients. But in May hospital officials reported nearly 60% of patients at Zambarano in Burrillville are also considered psychiatric, raising new questions about federal compliance and the building conditions there. As Target 12 previously reported, a State Fire Marshal inspection in April revealed more than 100 life and safety code violations at Zambarano.

In 2017, Rhode Island eventually secured the accreditation for Eleanor Slater by requiring staff to check up on patients every five minutes. State officials earlier this year said that practice continues in Cranston, as the building condition issues there hadn’t been resolved.

The Joint Commission’s accreditation is taken seriously by hospital groups, as it’s a key requirement to receiving federal funding from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Prior to 2019, CMS had funneled tens of millions of dollars into Eleanor Slater each year, but federal funding halted more than 18 months ago after the state stopped billing amid compliance concerns.

The lack of federal reimbursement has cost Rhode Island upward of $100 million in state money since 2019.

The Joint Commission’s decision “is subject to review and appeal before the determination to deny accreditation,” according to its website.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is an investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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