Originally created 07/24/02

Gracewood woes

What's gotten into Gracewood State School and Hospital? This is one of the state's oldest and most venerable institutions, not only for taking care of the mentally disabled, but also helping them learn to stand on their own feet and live independent lives.

Last month federal inspectors, in response to a complaint, found Gracewood patients in "immediate jeopardy," one of the worst designations such a facility can have - and a very troubling commentary on conditions at the 81-year-old Augusta area facility.

"There were injuries and potential for further harm to residents," said a federal spokeswoman who added that Medicare and Medicaid funding would be cut off unless the problems were corrected by July 13.

It's never clear to us how cutting off funds from any institution can improve it. It would be devastating to families and loved ones of those being cared for at Gracewood if the facility closed. But if patients are being ill-treated there, what's the alternative?

Gracewood CEO Bruce Callander promised the feds that with corrections in training and procedures Gracewood could meet the deadline, and so it did. Or did it?

On the same day the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services withdrew its threat to terminate funding, Georgia's Office of Regulatory Services sent out letters citing poor care at the facility, including reports that one resident was beaten with a pipe and another, left unsupervised, jumped out a window. Again, Medicare and Medicaid funding are in jeopardy.

The problem with last month's deficiencies were poor training and improper procedures; the state's criticisms last week centered on the staff being too short-handed to properly supervise the residents, and too few meaningful programs to engage them.

If these serious shortcomings aren't fixed for keeps, the facility very well may have to close. With state and federal budgets tight as a drum, and expected to stay that way for many more months, what Gracewood needs to do is draw on its tradition of mounting its own drives - not only to get more money but also volunteers to help out there.

Meanwhile, families of patients there should make an extra effort to ensure their loved ones are receiving proper care and attention.


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