Parkland Memorial Hospital Psychiatry Department bringing in private operator to oversee operations

Parkland police were summoned to the ninth-floor room of a woman who complained that a doctor grabbed one of her breasts and squeezed her neck “to the point that she had trouble breathing,” according to a police report. He asked “if she liked being choked.”green_oaks

Early yesterday afternoon, Parkland Memorial Hospital officials announced that they will place their troubled psychiatric services under the management of privately owned Green Oaks Hospital in Dallas.

News of the $1.1 million annual deal, posted on the hospital’s web site, is the culmination of confidential talks since November between the two parties. It marks a potentially significant shift for Parkland amid ongoing warnings from federal safety monitors that it needs to find a solution to persistent threats to psych patients.

The media statement said Parkland’s board of managers approved the deal — with member Dr. Winfred Parnell abstaining — during a Wednesday night meeting. Prior to the meeting, the hospital didn’t follow its usual practice of posting an advance meeting agenda and information packet on its website alerting the public.

Green Oaks, owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA, provides a range of mental-health care from inpatient to ER services at its site near the Medical City Dallas Hospital campus. It also runs outpatient clinics or other facilities in Dallas, McKinney, Plano and Irving.

At Parkland, Green Oaks will provide an administrative director, nursing director, performance improvement director and a community liaison for psychiatric services, the statement said. Joe Householder, a spokesman for Parkland, told me that the deal “in no way alters the relationship/contract with” UT Southwestern Medical Center. UTSW, Parkland’s academic affiliate, is paid to supply faculty physicians to provide clinical care.

“The objective of this agreement is to capitalize on the improvements we’ve already made, leverage the expertise of the leadership team we will place under contract, and continue moving behavioral health services at Parkland forward,” board chairwoman Debbie Branson said in the statement.

Robert Smith, Parkland’s interim CEO, said “behavioral health management is a core competency for Green Oaks,” adding it will help Parkland meet critical safety mandates imposed by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Our investigation into Parkland’s dangerous psychiatric operations — the scene of numerous patient-rights violations and a string of questionable deaths in recent years — triggered rare federal action in late 2011, placing the public safety-net hospital in its existing onsite monitoring program.

Since then problems have kept surfacing, however, despite efforts at reform by Parkland officials, including renovations to psych units and an overhaul of the staff. Onsite safety monitors recently said that the mental-health system “continues to be challenged with potential or actual patient safety events and issues,” as well as the “lack of a well-coordinated management team, particularly in the [psych ER].”

Last month, regulators told The News that major changes were in store for mental-health services but did not provide details. The hospital has until the end of April to prove to CMS that it can comply with federal safety regulations or lose hundreds of millions in federal health care funding.

Green Oaks’ corporate parent, HCA, also owns Medical City Dallas, and Parkland board member Parnell is a member of its staff. HCA calls itself “the nation’s leading provider of healthcare services.” Its website says the company has “approximately 163 hospitals and 109 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and England.”

Green Oaks opened in 1983 “with the goal of becoming the premier psychiatric treatment facility in North Texas,” its website says. It provides mental health and chemical dependency treatment for adolescents, adults and seniors.

It’s unclear why Wednesday’s meeting agenda wasn’t posted on Parkland’s website. Householder, Parkland’s spokesperson, said the meeting was “publicly advertised” through postings at the Dallas County administration building and at the hospital. ”The board met in public session and reviewed the contract,” he said.