UHS in the hot seat: Senator calls for federal probe over patient care concerns at top-performing hospital

hospital hallway
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wants an investigation of a Universal Health Services facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the wake of news reports that describe troubling concerns over low nurse staffing, medication errors and sexual misconduct.

Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has urged a government watchdog to investigate a Universal Health Services facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the wake of media reports that describe troubling concerns over low nurse staffing, medication errors and sexual misconduct.

Grassley says he also wants answers from the Joint Commission, which has designated the Shadow Mountain UHS facility as a “Top Performer in Key Quality Measures” from 2011 to 2015.  

In a letter (PDF) to Daniel Levinson, inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Grassley demanded a response by April 28 that addresses news reports from Buzzfeed, which “portray a pattern of conduct that is extremely concerning and cast a dark cloud over UHS’ ability to properly care for its patients and whether it is properly billing federal programs.”

Grassley has also asked the Joint Commission to respond by April 28 and explain how the facility has received its “Gold Seal of Approval” and whether its survey uncovered any problems in light of the news reports, which date back to December 2016.

This isn’t the first time Grassley has called on the OIG to investigate UHS. In December 2016, following the first Buzzfeed investigation, he asked the office to look into reports that the organization pressured patients into unnecessary admittance and prolonged hospitalizations, potentially defrauding the government via Medicare and Medicaid.

Although UHS did not respond to a Medscape Medical News request for comment (reg. req.), Shadow Mountain has published a media statement on its website that says the news reports are “inaccurate and pure sensationalism.”

“We are outraged at the depiction of events in the article and dispute the contention and assertions in the article wholeheartedly. The article contains numerous inaccuracies while providing no context or detail on individual patient treatment, and ignores the realities and accepted practices of mental health care,” the statement said.

UHS also set up a website after the initial report to set the record straight about the company, which it describes as one of the largest and most widely respected hospital management companies, delivering compassionate, high-quality care to millions of patients.

Meanwhile, Medscape reports that a Joint Commission spokesperson has confirmed that the accreditor is looking into the matter.

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