UHS Behavioral Health Facilities Under Scrutiny For Endangering Patients

UHSSEIU, the nation's largest health care union, issued a report today entitled "Failure to Care: A National Report on Universal Health Services' Behavioral Health Operations." The report alleges poor case management and understaffing at behavioral health facilities owned by the corporate health care giant, Universal Health Services (UHS).

The report documents cases of understaffed facilities and poor case management leading to sexual abuse, runaway patients, physical assaults on patients, violations of patients' rights, and patient dumping in several states. The report documents incidents from 13 different facilities in six states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Texas, and Nevada.

In the last five years, six UHS facilities in four states have been forced by regulators to temporarily stop or reduce admissions into their facilities because patients were in imminent danger, often as a result of understaffing.[i]

Four leading psychologists have hailed the SEIU report. Dr. John Caccavale, executive director of the National Alliance of Professional Psychology Providers (NAPPP), and three former presidents of the prestigious American Psychological Association, Dr. Nicholas Cummings, Dr. Stanley Graham, and Dr. Jack Wiggins, wrote a statement of concern that prefaces the report.

"One of the most glaring problems in this crisis is the corporate practice of placing earnings and exorbitant profits above the public interest at the expense of quality services to those in need. Using UHS as an example, this report clearly documents why mega healthcare corporations such as UHS need to be held accountable," the leading psychologists said.

The report concludes with 11 recommendations on how local mental health advocates can monitor the performance of UHS behavioral health facilities in their communities, protect vulnerable citizens who struggle with mental illness, and hold UHS accountable for the quality of patient care provided.

UHS is the nation's largest provider of inpatient behavioral health services with 103 facilities in 32 states and Puerto Rico. Behavioral health services account for 25 percent of UHS' net revenues.[ii] In 2005, UHS Behavioral Health Division reported $774 million in net patient revenue.[iii] With a current total of over 6,640 beds[iv], UHS Behavioral Services is expanding existing facilities and acquiring new centers, adding 700 to 800 new behavioral patient beds each year.[v]

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is the nation's largest health care union, with over 900,000 members in the health care field. SEIU members include nurses, medical technicians, doctors, mental health professionals and direct care providers. The report was produced by SEIU Local 1107, which represents nurses and technicians at two UHS hospitals in Las Vegas. (Copies of the 27-page report can be obtained by contacting Andrew English, englisha@seiu.org, 303-898-3633).

[i] Reinert, Sue. "Westwood to halt some admissions." The Patriot Ledger. March 11, 2002, p. 2; Reinert, Sue. "Hospital ordered to stop taking in children; Suspension ended last year, but state again investigating." The Patriot Ledger. April 15, 2003; Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Medicare & Medicaid. State of Georgia, Peachford Behavioral Health System, July 12, 2004. Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction. State of Texas. GlenOaksHospital, August 23, 2004; Poitras, Colin. "State halts treatment center admissions; concern for safety of children prompts move." Hartford Courant, August 3, 2006; Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction. State of Texas. McAllen Medical Center and Heart Hospital, September 14, 2005.

[ii] UHS November 2006 Quarterly Report.

[iii] Retrieved from Certificate of Public Review Application Narrative, Submitted to the Office of Health Planning, State of Delaware.

[iv] UHS Reports 3rd Quarter Earnings, Oct. 26, 2006.

[v] Fair Disclosure Wire "Event Brief of Q2 2006 Universal Health Services Earnings Conference Call - Final" July 28, 2006.

Service Employees International Union

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