KHI News Service

Joint Commission surveyor arrives at Larned State Hospital

By Dave Ranney | October 15, 2012

A follow-up inspection of conditions at Larned State Hospital has begun.

A surveyor with The Joint Commission, a national organization that accredits hospitals, arrived on the Larned campus Monday, according to sources familiar with the hospital's operations.

The hospital is one of three state-run inpatient facilities for mentally ill adults who are considered a danger to themselves or others.

In March, The Joint Commission cited Larned State Hospital for not having enough nurses and for not doing enough to ensure that medications were safely dispensed.

The findings put the hospital’s accreditation – and potentially $14.5 million in federal aid – in jeopardy.

Initially, The Joint Commission indicated it would conduct a follow-up survey by Sept. 27. The deadline was later pushed back to Oct. 28.

Since the March survey, hospital Supt. Christopher Burke and three of the facility’s four physicians have resigned.

Angela de Rocha, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said the hospital had begun contracting for services with Docs Who Care, an Olathe-based company that helps hospitals and clinics hire fill-in physicians.

The company, de Rocha said, has been supplying the hospital with two to three physicians on a regular basis.

De Rocha said the hospital was able to hire a full-time pharmacy earlier this summer but has yet to land an on-campus medical director or a permanent superintendent. Thomas Kinlen, the hospital’s director of psychology, has been interim superintendent since May.

KDADS recently approved pay raises for the hospital’s nurses.

Though de Rocha and other KDADS officials have said they expect the hospital to pass inspection, advocates for the mentally ill say they remained concerned.

“A big concern is that the hospital maintain its accreditation because without it the federal funding would have to be replaced by the State General Fund, and that would be a huge burden,” said Walt Hill, executive director of the High Plains Mental Health Center in Hays. “We’ve heard the KDADS assurances that the deficiencies have been addressed and we certainly hope that’s the case. But at this point, we’re all waiting to hear what The Joint Commission has to say.”

High Plains Mental Health Center serves 20 counties in northwest Kansas, all of which are in the Larned hospital's 61-county catchment area.