Five nurses claimed their acute care hospital’s psychiatric unit engaged in improper admissions and altered charts at the instruction of a UHS employee; the case was settled.

Five nurses at Verdugo Hills Hospital filed a lawsuit against their hospital and Horizon Health Corporation, a subsidiary of UHS that provides hospital management services. The nurses alleged that beginning in February 2011, a new Program Director employed by Horizon to manage the hospital’s geriatric psychiatric unit instructed nurses to engage in improper admissions practices and accept all patients regardless of bed availability.

According to their complaint, overflow patients were held in the ER or Medical Surgery Unit, which resulted in compromised care and created short staffing on the geropsych unit when nursing assistants went to monitor the overflow patients in other units. The nurses also claimed that the program director discharged patients, often before a medical physician signed discharge orders or before all appropriate care was rendered, to open up beds for new patients. They claimed this practice was especially common for Medicaid patients. Finally, the nurses alleged they were instructed by the program director to engage in “negative charting,” or exaggerating a patient’s behavior in their medical charts even when they were calm or cooperative in order to increase government reimbursements for care rendered. The case was settled confidentially in May 2013.