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Hospitals affiliated with Las Encinas also have been investigated

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Aurora Las Encinas Hospital is not the only psychiatric hospital under the Aurora brand name that has had problems flagged by government officials.

The 29-acre private psychiatric facility in Pasadena is run by Signature Healthcare Services, which has offices in Allen Park, Mich., and Corona, according to public records. In addition to Las Encinas, which it purchased in 2003 from HCA, a healthcare giant based in Nashville, Tenn., the company runs psychiatric facilities under the Aurora name in Covina, Ventura, San Diego, Chicago and Glendale, Ariz.

Aurora San Diego also has been investigated for failing to provide appropriate care. Medicare officials said they found "serious deficiencies" during a 2006 recertification inspection.

Among patients not receiving care was a deaf man who remained isolated because the hospital failed to hire a sign language interpreter. The deaf patient told inspectors that he did not know his diagnosis or, according to the government inspection report, "why he has been in the hospital for more than 80 days." Staffers could not explain why the hospital canceled the interpreter. A doctor said the patient was "bored and depressed a little bit because he is confined in a place where he can't communicate."

The hospital was also faulted for failing to encourage three patients to attend treatment groups.

In a plan of correction submitted to regulators, Aurora San Diego officials said that patients "will be encouraged to attend all groups and actively participate in their treatment plan." The hospital also said that interpretive services would be made available to anyone with language or hearing barriers.

Regulators ultimately deemed the San Diego hospital to be in compliance with Medicare rules in 2007.

The owner of Signature Healthcare Services, Dr. Soon Kuyn Kim, has also been under scrutiny for alleged irregularities in his business practices.

In 2006, Kim and several other parties agreed to pay the U.S. government $1.73 million to settle accusations of Medicare fraud in connection with his ownership of three firms that operated mental health facilities in Michigan, according to the settlement agreement.

The payment came after a whistle-blower lawsuit, filed by a former chief executive officer at one of Kim's companies, accused Kim and his firms of overstating expenses in reports to the U.S. government that are required in order to seek reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid expenses. The U.S. attorney's office in Detroit later joined the lawsuit.

Linda Parks, Las Encinas' chief executive, said in a statement that the $1.7-million settlement concerned "technical issues unrelated to patient care and companies associated with Dr. Kim, but not Dr. Kim directly."

A copy of the settlement agreement shows that Kim was one of the defendants named in the case. Kim's signature is on the settlement agreement as an individual and as the head of his firms.

In a separate case in 2008, Kim agreed to pay the state of Michigan a $40,000 fine for negligence after old medical records were found in the streets near a hospital Kim had closed in 2002 and, later, at Kim's property in a suburb of Detroit.

Parks, in a statement, said the fine was "unrelated to patient care" and involved an issue where "there was no harm to any patient."

According to state records, government officials had taken photographs of medical records containing Social Security numbers, X-rays and test results blowing around Kim's property and on a trail his neighbors used.

ron.lin@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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