Even With Troubled Histories, Psych Hospitals Face Few Sanctions

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From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “On its consumer website, a high-profile accrediting organization displays its ‘Gold Seal of Approval’ next to the names of almost every Georgia psychiatric hospital that admits children or teens for crisis care.

The Joint Commission, which sets quality standards and conducts inspections, says patients and their families should rest assured by seeing the shiny emblem it awards. ‘By earning our Gold Seal,’ the commission says on its website, ‘you’re telling your staff, competitors, community and each and every patient that comes through your doors that you have placed an emphasis on quality of care.’

Above all, the commission says, the seal demonstrates a facility’s ‘devotion to patient safety.’

Yet, some Georgia psychiatric hospitals that display the Joint Commission’s seal have troubled histories with government regulators and law enforcement agencies. Their investigations have determined the hospitals failed to meet even basic patient protection standards, with some of the lapses contributing to patients’ deaths, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.

Regulators appear to impose few sanctions, though, even when government inspectors discovered cases of abuse, negligence or shocking systemic problems. Instead, government regulators routinely rely on hospitals to correct their own deficiencies and accrediting organizations say they partner with hospitals to help them improve.

Meanwhile, the hospitals continue to admit vulnerable psychiatric patients with little public notice of the failures.”

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