The Universal Health Services health care nightmare in Jacksonville
May 13, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The images, accusations, and police reports filed against Universal Health Services facilities across the state are stunning.
And one family in Jacksonville said they lived it.
"Our family was turned upside down in a matter of hours."
One First Coast man said he feared for his wife's safety after she was committed to River Point Behavioral Center in February.
It's one of two centers in Jacksonville owned by UHS, a nationwide health care provider.
To protect her identity, he didn't want us to show his face, but said his concerns are serious.
His wife was involuntarily committed, Baker Acted after she voluntarily attended a group therapy session at River Point.
"Begrudgingly, we turned ourselves in to River Point, which was devastating for my wife because she felt like she was being committed for sharing her thoughts," he said.
He said he was given no information, and was not allowed to see or speak to his wife for five days.
When she was finally released, he said the doctors didn't have any recommendations or follow-up plans for care.
"I asked 'well, what's her treatment plan after getting out of the facility,' and I got no response. They gave me her bags, and asked me to leave," he said.
He said he understood a week later when he got the bill.
"I honestly think she was there just to drain her insurance because we got an exorbitant bill when she was let out," he said.
Claims against other UHS facilities are similar, or worse.
A lawsuit just filed in Orlando against another UHS facility, the National School for the Deaf, claims patients were involuntarily committed and kept longer than recommended for insurance money.
Two former employees allege horrible treatment, recounting one instance where a child with a hurt leg was allegedly refused a wheelchair and made to crawl in her own urine to a bathroom.
While the center denies the accusations, the former employees say they're ready to go to court.
An employee at a UHS center in Pensacola was just sentenced to jail time after she was caught on camera slamming a young girl in to a wall and then sitting on her for 20 minutes.
Twelve UHS centers across the country are now under investigation by the Department of Justice, including two here in Jacksonville, Wekiva Springs Hospital, and River Point, where the man's wife we spoke with was committed.
"My wife was mortified, and in my opinion came out way worse and somewhat institutionalized from when she went in," he said.
River Point and Wekiva Springs issued a point by point rebuttal to his allegations, asserting they are owned by UHS but are independent facilities.
The statement said they seek to provide excellent care for their patients and maintain compliance with federal and state regulations.
While they would not comment on the Inspector General investigation, they did say they can keep a Baker Acted patient for longer than 72 hours if they are a danger to themselves.
But this man says it didn't help.
"The entire time, my wife's condition got worse because she was upset about being in this facility," he said.
Source: Kaitlyn Ross, "First Coast family says they lived health care nightmare with Universal Health Services," First Coast News (WTLV ABC 25), May 2, 2013.
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