Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo pictured April 3, 2015.
The head of Colorado’s state mental institution has resigned in the midst of a staffing shortage that resulted in federal regulators determining the Pueblo hospital poses an “immediate and serious threat to the health and safety” of its 449 patients.
Officials at the Colorado Department of Human Services, which oversees the hospital, would not say whether the resignation of Superintendent Ron Hale is related to the hospital’s numerous deficiencies, described in two recent federal reviews. He will stay until July 9, to “ensure a smooth transition,” state officials said.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put the hospital on notice of “immediate jeopardy” last week, giving it three weeks to improve or risk losing federal funding.
Since that action on June 5, the Colorado Mental Health Institute has met required staffing levels every day, human services spokeswoman Elizabeth Owens said. “The facility is not in danger of closing or being forced to close under any scenario,” she said in an emailed news release.
Emergency measures to maintain staffing levels include mandatory overtime and a ban on new vacation requests.
The hospital for people who are committed by courts or found not guilty by reason of insanity was placed on a 23-day “termination track” for failing to comply with federal regulations. Investigators who inspected the psychiatric hospital last week found it did not meet conditions of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The institution, which includes geriatric and adolescent units, has suffered for years from staffing shortages, operating at times without the minimum number of staff needed to cover shifts and group therapy. The hospital has 97 vacant positions, out of a full staff of 723.
The inspection last week was a follow-up to a February survey that also found conditions of “immediate jeopardy.” The hospital has submitted a correction plan, which regulators must approve by June 28 in order for the hospital to avoid termination of its federal agreement to serve patients. If the agreement is terminated, the mental hospital will no longer receive Medicaid and Medicare funds
Among the deficiencies cited by federal authorities was that hospital staff failed to make sure patients received proper medical care and swallowing evaluations, which might have caused some patients to choke on solid foods.