Topeka State officials said Thursday they believe a portion of Osawatomie State Hospital is close to being recertified to receive Medicare payments, but members of a legislative committee expressed frustration that it hasn't happened already.
Tim Keck, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which manages the hospital, told members of the Legislative Budget Committee Thursday that a recent inspection of the hospital in May found only minor deficiencies in the 60-bed unit that the state is trying to recertify, and he said he was confident that the unit would pass its next inspection.
"We feel like we're ready to go with Osawatomie," Keck said.
Osawatomie State Hospital lost its certification to receive Medicare reimbursements in December 2015, following the rape of an employee of the psychiatric hospital by a patient who had been committed there.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said at the time that the hospital was severely understaffed and was being operated in a way that threatened the health and safety of patients and staff.
Keck said the issues that CMS raised at that time have largely been addressed, and the issues being raised now were relatively minor and had more to do with hospital administration than the quality of patient care.
"None of this had to do with the level of patient care," he said. "The level of patient care is much, much better than it was even a year ago, or six months ago."
But members of the committee said they were surprised by the things that CMS did find during its most recent inspection in May — things such as the food service kitchen not being operated according to standards, the hospital not having policies and procedures in place to prevent hospital-acquired infections, and not having a governing board overseeing the hospital that is organized according to CMS standards.
"I take some question with your suggestion that these aren't patient care issues, that they're just operations issues," said Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka. "I think of food service as an important part of taking care of patients."
Sen Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, said she understood that some of the deficiencies CMS found were technical, administrative matters.
"But some of these other things, these are daily routines of hospitals and nursing home facilities, and I don't know why we can't get that right," she said.
Keck, however, said the problem was more about paperwork than about actual practices at the hospital.
"We were doing a lot of the things that they cited as a deficiency. We just didn't have a policy or a process or a procedure in place," he said. "That's the way it's been done for a long, long time. And so I think we were surprised that they came in and found deficiencies at these levels."
Rep. Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, who chairs the joint committee, pointed out that when the hospital lost its certification in 2015 the state hired a consultant who was supposed to be an expert at helping hospitals get recertified, and he questioned why the consultant didn't know in advance what CMS expected.
The purpose of Thursday's meeting was only to brief the Budget Committee on the status activity at Osawatomie State Hospital. The committee did not take formal action.