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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Hospitals Pass Inspection, Keep Medicare

After a re-evaluation of security procedures, officials advised CMS to reverse its decision to revoke UNC Hospitals' Medicare plan.

The decision comes after a new inspection of the hospital's security protocol.

The hospital's Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements were slated to be terminated Nov. 18 after a N.C. Department of Health and Human Services inspection in October found security problems within the hospital's psychiatric unit.

The state determined that these problems contributed to the Oct. 1 escape and suicide of 35-year-old Carrboro resident Arcadio Ariza Cortes, a mentally ill patient committed to the hospital's unit. In its initial study, the state found that hospital staff had mistaken Cortes as a visitor, which allowed him to leave the unit and commit suicide by jumping from the Kenan-Flagler Business School parking deck.

After the state investigation, CMS officials formally notified UNC Hospitals that its Medicare funding would be terminated by Nov. 18. UNC Hospitals officials worked to correct the security deficiencies, submitting two allegations of compliance to the CMS -- the second of which was accepted by the center. The hospital's first allegation of compliance did not provide enough detail, said Tom Hughes, spokesman for UNC Hospitals.

Jeff Horton, chief of the mental health licensure and certification section of the state department, said state inspectors reviewed the hospital's security procedures Wednesday.

Horton said that after the reinspection, state officials recommended to the CMS that the hospital's termination be reversed.

"(The CMS) indicated they would go by our recommendation," he said Friday.

Hughes said that although the hospital's initial allegation of compliance was denied by the CMS, security deficiencies were corrected immediately.

According to UNC Hospitals' second allegation of compliance, all nursing staff members have received training about the hospital's revised policies. The hospital's allegation also states that all patients are required to wear identification bands, and visitors will have their hands stamped at arrival.

Eighty-six staff members have been informed of the hospital's revised identification policies, the allegation states.

Hughes said he is confident the policies will prevent future security problems for the hospital. "Now that we've had the second inspection ... we are pleased the CMS accepted the state's recommendation," he said. "This was a serious situation, and we responded seriously."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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