Long plagued by serious problems, Meadowview Hospital in Secaucus, which is the county’s psychiatric hospital, has finally received a long-sought after accreditation that shows it has fully recovered from decades of neglect and inefficiency.
“This is something very significant,” said Carol Ann Wilson, director of Hudson County Health and Human Services, who was put in charge of restoring the hospital in 2001 after reports showed it had serious problems.
In late January, the facility received accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), which clears the way for the hospital to continue to receive Medicaid and Medicare financing.
The JCAHO is an organization that regulates standards in hospitals, making sure that procedures and lab tests are being done properly, and that the hospital’s staff is properly educated and motivated.
“This is something very significant.” – Carol Ann Wilson
“This is a remarkable achievement,” said County Executive Tom DeGise.
Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico, who chairs the Freeholders’ Health Committee, said the JCAHO’s requirements and on-site inspections were rigorous.
“You would not believe all of the things they look at, from paint to where furniture is located,” she said.
Lost license in 1990s
The facility, which houses approximately 80 patients, suffered serious problems in the early 1990s, when the lack of care caused it to lose its state funding and license. The county contracted out services in 1995 to a variety of vendors for psychiatric and other services – including a consulting firm to help restore lost funding and prepare the facility and staff to meet the standards of accreditation.
In 2001, the freeholders received a report that was particularly critical of Hudson County Psychiatric Services, the principal provider of psychiatric services at the hospital, a firm owned by Dr. Oscar Sandoval – who had admitted to making illegal payments to former County Executive Robert Janiszewski to obtain and keep the contract in the 1990s.
Wilson said the problems predated her taking responsibility for the hospital.
“It was a real mess,” she said.
In late 2001, Correctional Health Services took over the psychiatric and other operations at the hospital on an interim basis, later winning the contract for services there.
The accreditation became even more critical when federal regulations changed even after Wilson began to work to make improvements, making the accreditation even more difficult to attain.
A 2001 report issued by Janus Solutions on conditions at the Meadowview Hospital Psychiatric Unit showed that the hospital was not certified by the Federal Health Care Finance Administration, and was not accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organization.
Records were poorly kept, and the hospital provided the minimal amount of programming and services. The staff did not interact well with the patients, who were generally heavily drugged as a means of keeping them complacent, according to a report.
“Everything is different now,” DiDomenico said. “You would be amazed at how comfortable the place seems. The staff treats the patients well, often interacting with them.”
Wilson said the facility has finally managed to overcome the difficulties it faced prior to the county taking action there.
“This shows how much progress has been made,” she said, “although it hasn’t been easy.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.