The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 26, 2013

Sheran holds hearing on state hospitals, clinics

"Scathing" auditor's report listed 20 recommendations for state

(Continued)

Though the human services department cooperated with the auditor’s investigation and actually agreed with his findings, the report found plenty of room to improve.

One of its recommendations: The state should develop ways to measure its performance and plans to meet its goals.

For example, length of stay in state hospitals remains an issue. The auditor found that, as of last September, nearly 40 percent of the beds in an Anoka hospital were occupied by patients who no longer need medical care.

Barry suggested that part of the problem is there are often no better places to put these patients, but said the department is looking for answers.

“We’re going through clients in our whole service system to say, ‘Are there other places this person can live?’” she said.

Another persistent problem at state-operated health care centers is injuries. Assaults in state facilities skyrocketed by 70 percent in 2012, to 1,969.

The report noted there was an increase immediately after the January 2012 turnover in psychiatric staff.

Steven Pratt, the medical director at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, said negative news stories have made it difficult to hire psychiatrists.

The shortage in psychiatrists has led to a dip in therapy at the security hospital, the report said, to about an hour a day, a level the auditor found insufficient. The department agrees, and Pratt said Thursday he’s made improvements in medication and therapy levels since he was hired in January 2012.

Barry, the DHS official, also discussed the department’s response to recently reported problems, including a bureaucratic lapse that led to a security hospital patient being released on a Minneapolis street corner about two months ago, according to a Star Tribune story.

Barry said DHS has hired a “root cause analysis expert” to get to the bottom of what went wrong. She said legislators could see the report when it was finished.

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