A health-care system in Massachusetts said it was conducting a review of US HealthVest, its partner in a proposed psychiatric hospital, two days after a Seattle Times investigation of the company’s operations in Washington and other states.
“Our foremost priority is to assure that any partnership is consistent with both our mission and our core goals as an organization: quality care, increased access to critical health services, financial stability and investment in community health.”
A Baystate spokeswoman declined to elaborate. Richard Kresch, US HealthVest’s chief executive, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Baystate’s announcement was first reported by The Republican/MassLive.com.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association, a union that has been critical of Baystate’s plans, later Tuesday cited The Seattle Times’ report when it called on the health system to dissolve its partnership with US HealthVest.
The Times’ investigation found that US HealthVest, in its push to expand mental-health care in Washington state and beyond, has repeatedly fallen short of regulatory requirements and put patients at risk. The company, which operates Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital in Marysville and South Sound Behavioral Hospital in Lacey, Thurston County, has been celebrated by officials including Gov. Jay Inslee for adding treatment options in underserved areas amid a chronic shortage of psychiatric facilities in the state.
Yet regulators have repeatedly faulted Smokey Point for failing to adequately staff the hospital and care for patients. Government inspectors found violations on 12 separate visits over 15 months, records show. In April, the Washington state Department of Health denied US HealthVest’s proposal to build a third psychiatric hospital in Bellingham, partly due to Smokey Point’s record of compliance.
In Illinois, inspectors found serious violations at US HealthVest’s Chicago Behavioral Hospital four times in less than two years, including an immediate jeopardy to patient safety in May. At the company’s Ridgeview Institute in Monroe, Ga., two patients died by suicide within a span of nine months last year.
Kresch, US HealthVest’s chief executive, has said that Smokey Point and all of its hospitals have been “fully compliant with all state and federal regulations.”
Baystate’s plans call for closing some psychiatric units in hospitals it operates while building a new facility with US HealthVest that would boost its mental-health capacity overall, according to the health system and local media reports.
It would be US HealthVest’s second such partnership in Massachusetts, following a joint venture with UMass Memorial Health Care to open a psychiatric hospital in Worcester.
“While we will not comment on situations elsewhere, we have confidence in our partner and the local team here in Worcester,” a spokesman for UMass said Tuesday.