Order causes confusion at psychiatric center

Thursday, October 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Parkside Hospital's decision to hospitalize mentally ill patients instead of focusing funds on outpatient treatment may be linked to its current troubles, Oklahoma's top health official said Wednesday.

Parkside became the chief provider of inpatient care in the Tulsa area following the mandated reduction in inpatient capacity of Eastern State Hospital at Vinita.

The downsizing was intended to encourage community-based outpatient treatment, allowing local providers to decide when to contract for more costly inpatient care, said Jerry Regier, cabinet secretary for health and human services.

But unlike other facilities, Parkside operated its own inpatient beds, he said.

``If you're sitting there as a CEO _ and I'm not accusing them of this, but this looks like what happened _ and I have a choice of putting them in outpatient or in my own bed where I get reimbursed at $350 a day, what's the incentive?'' Regier said Tuesday after a speech at the Tulsa Press Club.

``Whereas the others have an incentive to keep that money, keep them in the community, only pay for the inpatient if it's absolutely necessary. ... In fact, Parkside reduced the outpatient services.''

Parkside officials, however, reported a 17 percent increase in outpatient services after the Eastern State downsizing. Parkside spokeswoman Sheila Curley said the hospital increased inpatient capacity to provide services for former Eastern State patients who needed inpatient care.

A recent audit by state mental health officials found dozens of deficiencies, including understaffing, that must be corrected for the department to continue its contract with Parkside. Parkside officials have said corrective measures would require funding the hospital doesn't have.

Some legislators have said insistence by Gov. Frank Keating and Regier on a quick transition are to blame for Parkside's problems. But Regier questioned the leadership of Parkside officials and state mental health officials.

Sharron Boehler, the director of the Eastern State Hospital transition program, has been removed from that position following the criticism at Parkside. Parkside executive director Paul Greever recently resigned. Parkside's board also voted Monday to turn over control of the hospital to the Tulsa Psychiatric Center.

``We just need to have the right people in charge of what's going on the mental health situation in Tulsa and try to do the best we can to right it,'' Regier said.

On Tuesday, an emergency order issued by Regier halted admissions to Parkside's crisis unit and detention center, momentarily leaving police scrambling to find alternative treatment for suicidal people.

The order, however, applied only to inpatient admissions. Health officials said the hospital could continue to treat patients needing emergency services on an outpatient basis.

The order came after state officials determined that Parkside had failed to seek inpatient licensing for 24 beds added after renovations to its 12th Street and Utica hospital.

But Rosemary Brown, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said that agency considers those beds to be outpatient beds that do not require licensing.

She said while both agencies debate the semantics, Parkside will continue to treat patients in those units on an outpatient basis.

``Admissions are being accepted, and people can get services,'' she said.