The Brattleboro Retreat on Linden Street in Brattleboro. (Reformer file photo)
The Brattleboro Retreat on Linden Street in Brattleboro. (Reformer file photo)
Friday June 28, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Inspectors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, were at the Brattleboro Retreat this week following up on patient complaints, as the embattled psychiatric hospital prepares for its additional CMS survey that could potentially lead to the facility losing its federal funding.

The three-day inspection this week was scheduled after a patient, or patients, filed 17 complaints against the Retreat.

Details on the complaints and on the survey were not available, but Retreat Senior Vice President of Government Relations Peter Albert said the CMS inspectors followed up on the complaints this week and found no basis for further actions.

"Surveyors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services completed a three day review of 17 complaints and determined no findings on these complaints," Albert said late Wednesday. "We are pleased with the results of this week's review and the work of our employees."

Albert said this week's CMS inspection was entirely independent from a more serious surprise inspection that is going to be held at the Retreat some time before August 15. The Retreat is going to have face that inspection after CMS said in May that the hospital was in violation of several federal standards related to patient treatment. That report was largely tied to the treatment the Retreat was giving to the State Hospital patients who are now occupying 14 beds in a new unit on the Brattleboro campus.

Following that report, which found that Retreat staff restrained and secluded patients, and in one case forcibly medicated a patient, the Retreat was required to file a plan of corrective action with CMS.

That plan was accepted, Albert said, and now the psychiatric hospital is preparing for the surprise inspection, which will determine if the Retreat will be able to continue to receive federal funding.

The Retreat has been caring for patients from the Vermont State Hospital since Tropical Storm Irene damaged the Waterbury facility in August 2011. The Retreat opened its new 14-bed state hospital unit this year.

After the CMS report was issued in May, Brattleboro Retreat President and CEO Rob Simpson said the hospital was struggling to develop standards in treating the State Hospital patients who were showing up at the Retreat with much more severe and acute mental health issues than the Retreat staff was used to dealing with in the past.

He said then that the Retreat was dealing with a learning curve and also said he and the staff were well aware of the seriousness of the CMS charges, and of the impact of losing that federal funding.

Interim Mental Health Commissioner Frank Reed said Thursday that the Retreat has been in close contact with the state, and with legislative leaders, following the inspections this week.

"The Retreat did exactly what they were asked to do," said Reed, who is serving as Interim Mental Health Commissioner until July 1 when Paul Dupre is scheduled to take over. "As soon as CMS arrived they let us know and when they left they gave us a report."

Reed said he did not know any details on the most recent complaints, but he said any patient has the right to file complaint, and when that happens CMS is required to follow up and do an inspection.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.