Psychiatric Hospital Can't Reopen Until Dispute Is Settled, State Says

Times Staff Writer

State health officials say they will not reopen an Oxnard psychiatric hospital they closed last week until deficiencies found during an inspection last month are corrected.

Pacific Shores Hospital was ordered shut down last Friday, and its 21 patients were moved to other facilities because hospital officials failed to clear up repeated licensing violations, said William Murray, district administrator of the licensing and certification division of the state Department of Health Services.

The state has alleged that Pacific Shores operated a chemical dependency treatment program without a license. Nurses were told not to record certain prescribed drugs that were given to patients, Murray said.

Fire Regulations

In addition, the hospital allegedly admitted wheelchair-bound patients in contravention of county fire regulations, which stipulate that the hospital admit only ambulatory patients. The hospital lacked enough staff to help patients escape in case of fire, Murray said.

The president of the McLean, Va., firm that owns Pacific Shores Hospital and 59 other psychiatric hospitals in 38 states denied any wrongdoing and said the closure caught him by surprise.

"We're not sure what it's all about. No one ever confronted us. This is like being convicted without a trial," said Allan Conway, president of Mental Health Management.

The firm is a subsidiary of Mediq, a publicly held New Jersey health-care company with revenues last year of $258 million.

Hasn't Seen Records

Conway said he does not know whether patients at Pacific Shores were treated for chemical dependency because he has not seen their individual charts. But he said that some patients admitted to Pacific Shores as acutely mentally ill were later found to be suffering from chemical dependency.

The state maintains that it does not matter whether patients were admitted on psychiatric or chemical-dependency diagnosis. It says that if a hospital is treating patients for chemical dependency, it must have a license and that Pacific Shores had no such license.

The dispute began in February, when state health services officials inspected Pacific Shores as it was preparing to open.

At the time, the state discovered that Pacific Shores had outlined a procedure to treat patients for chemical dependency. Pacific Shores was told to either obtain a license to treat patients for chemical dependency or to delete the plan from its program, Murray said.

The state also mistakenly issued a provisional, six-month license without waiting for Pacific Shores to resolve the deficiencies, Murray said.

Last month, the six-month license expired and at the same time as the state began reinspecting the records of Pacific Shores, it also began receiving anonymous complaints about treatment of patients, who are all on Medicare or Medi-Cal, Murray said.

"We substantiated the complaints," he added.

Murray ordered the hospital closed Friday. Some patients were moved to a handful of local facilities; those at the end of their treatment programs were discharged, Murray said.

Hospital officials say they hope to go to Sacramento this week to plead their case before the state licensing agency.

"We're attempting to get an audience," Conway said. "If someone makes an allegation against you, all we ask for is the right to confront that allegation."

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