February 1st, 2014

Psychiatric hospital re-opens in Brookline

After being closed for new admissions this fall, a Brookline psychiatric hospital has been re-opened for admission of most patients.

Complaints of a forced strip search of a female patient in October at Arbour-HRI prompted a surprise visit from state licensing inspectors. The ensuing report cited concerns of inexperienced staff and unsanitary conditions causing the Department of Mental Health to first reduce and then stop all admissions to the facility in late November.

“Given the seriousness of the complaints and incidents that occurred at Arbour-HRI in the past several months, our number one priority is to protect patient care,” says Anna Chinappi, director of communications for the DMH. “Our concern for and obligation to patient safety at Arbour-HRI and at all DMH licensed facilities are paramount and take precedence over any other consideration.”

After an initial corrective action plan submitted by Arbour Health System, which operates the hospital, was rejected by the DMH for not fully addressing the concerns, the hospital re-submitted a plan in early December. At that time, the state began to allow limited admissions and has increased the allowed number of new admissions since then.

“We allowed HRI to resume admissions in stages and at this time their census is 44 on three units. This is 20 beds lower than the time prior to our licensing action,” says Chinappi.

Because of their urban settings and the fact that they operate nearly one-fifth of the state’s mental health beds in Massachusetts, the Arbour facilities are an integral part of the state’s mental health care system, Chinappi adds, handling a large part of its acute mental health cases. The high-need patient population tends to warrant both more oversight from the DMH and more complex care levels.

Owned by Universal Health Services, a national corporation that owns psychiatric centers around the country, the Arbour Health System has seen a number of complaints and issues in the past few years. In addition to the forced search, the Brookline hospital also saw the death of a patient in October, Lori Ann Durant of New Bedford. The system was also cited by authorities for three other Arbour Health System deaths in the past four years, one in Attleboro and the other two at facilities in Jamaica Plain. In addition, the system has been cited for violating patient-care standards and insufficient or poorly trained staff.

However, with more than 22 percent of the state’s psychiatric beds, the system sees only about 11 percent of the complaints filed with the DMH according to published reports.

According to Judy Merel, spokeswoman for Arbour Health System, these incidents are not representative of the company’s track record.

“Arbour-HRI Hospital has been recognized for quality and patient care and, in addition to being licensed by the Department of Mental Health, is accredited by The Joint Commission,” she says. “Our hospital staff and services continue to receive high marks from patient surveys relating to their experience and outcomes.”

The corrective actions have, she adds, been successfully implemented including the “development of new policies and revisions of existing ones, enhancements to environmental services and review of daily group programming.”

Inspectors from the state are monitoring all improvements, says Chinappi. “Arbour has documented their improvement plans and the progress they have made so far on these plans,” she says. “Staff at the facility have been appropriately training and we have observed that substantial improvements have been made to the physical plant of the facility.”

“We will continue to monitor progress through both announced and unannounced site visits and through the receipt of weekly updates from Arbour HRI leadership.”

By Catherine Robertson Souter

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