New Website Details High-Profit Model of Behavioral Care at UHS, the Subject of Widening Federal Probe

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CONTACT: Jim McNeill – 202-213-1614 – Jim@UHSBehindClosedDoors.org

UHSBehindClosedDoors.org shows “bottom line” focus may be affecting care at Universal Health Services, the nation’s biggest behavioral health provider

– Hundreds of FOIA’d documents reveal major failures in care, many at UHS facilities facing federal probe; @UHSClosedDoors to live tweet UHS investor call Friday

A new website documents the high-profit model of care at Universal Health Services Inc. (UHS), the nation’s largest provider of behavioral health services. UHSBehindClosedDoors.org formally launched Tuesday morning. It details an aggressive focus on profits at UHS’s behavioral health division, which recorded a profit margin of nearly 25 percent in 2013.

But those profits may be coming at a cost to patient care. The new website, a project of SEIU, includes hundreds of lawsuits and inspection reports from state and federal regulators that detail serious problems in care at many UHS behavioral facilities. Those documents, many of which were obtained through freedom of information act requests, can be downloaded at UHSBehindClosedDoors.org.

The website also includes excerpts from investor presentations by UHS executives. In one, UHS CFO Steve Filton explains that staffing costs are the “bottom line” in the “behavioral business” and reducing them is the key to boosting profits. (Read more of Filton’s remarks on the website here.) Inadequate staffing is a factor in many of the troubling incidents documented on the website:

  • At UHS’s Vines Hospital in Ocala, Fla., a psychotic patient left unsupervised for two hours killed his roommate in 2012. Afterward, a worker told state officials “sometimes there are not enough staff to care for residents.” (See source here.)
  • In 2013, at Riveredge Hospital in Forest Park, Ill., a patient who had attempted suicide before was allegedly placed in a room with the lowest level of observation. One day after being admitted, she hung herself with a bed sheet in her room and died. (See source here.)

Riveredge is one of 18 UHS behavioral facilities under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General. Three of the facilities in Florida are also being probed by the Justice Department’s Criminal Fraud Section.

The government has not released details of the ongoing investigation, but UHS executives say the subpoenas they’ve received relate to their facilities’ clinical practices. UHS may divulge more information about the federal probe in its 2014 earnings report, which is scheduled for release this Thursday, February 26, after the markets close.

UHS will hold a conference call for investors about its 2014 earnings report this Friday, February 27, at 9 a.m. UHSBehindClosedDoors.org — which is on Twitter at @UHSClosedDoors — will live tweet Friday’s investor call.

Unlike other large investor-owned hospital companies, UHS has no independent committee on its board of directors to oversee quality of care and compliance issues. When UHS employees have reported patient care concerns to the corporate compliance program, some say they have been retaliated against or fired.

“When the biggest behavioral health provider in America is so focused on profits, it affects the standard of care all across the country,” said Mimi Tambellini, a registered nurse from East Liverpool, Ohio, who works on a behavioral health unit and is a member of the Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania/SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “UHS needs to focus on providing the best possible care for the vulnerable population we serve.”

UHSBehindClosedDoors.org is bringing to light serious problems in care at Universal Health Services, the nation’s largest provider of behavioral health care. It is an online resource for mental health advocates and caregivers supported by the Service Employees International Union.