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Midvale Journal

Midvale Hospital closed after ‘strictest sanctions’ by state licensers

Jun 04, 2024 11:59AM ● By Bailey Chism

Highland Ridge Hospital was shut down by its parent company; it closed May 7. (Bailey Chism/City Journals)

A for-profit psychiatric hospital chose to shut down after years of discipline and patient safety concerns. 

The closure announcement comes less than a year after Utah’s Disability Law Center released a report that accused Utah’s state licensing agency of “ineffectively” protecting vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities. The report cited multiple instances of neglect and described state regulators as “reluctant” to shut down facilities offering inadequate care. 

Highland Ridge Hospital has been licensed with the state since 1984, according to state records. In the past few years, state licensers have threatened to shut the facility down three times if changes aren’t made. In the end, though, it was the hospital’s parent company Arcadia Healthcare that chose to close the facility. 

The hospital’s closure comes three months after the Utah Department of Health and Human Services put the psychiatric hospital on a conditional license, requiring hospital administrators to hire a qualified medical professional who could serve as an independent monitor. They operated under a conditional license four times since 2021 due to noncompliance issues. The first was for four months in 2021, the second was for six months in 2022, and its current license, which would have run from July 2023 to January 2025.  

DHHS licensing processes were based on the federal process from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As that process was reviewed, DHHS employees found a gap between the CMS process and DHHS process, so they began creating a new process to be more effective. 

“Our goal in implementing the new process was to work toward creating a system that results in licensed facilities consistently providing environments where people are safe, healthy, and treated with dignity,” said Katie England, public information officer for DHHS. “As we continue to implement and train providers and DHHS staff on this compliance process, we won’t stop looking for areas where we can improve our processes even further to make sure licensed facilities are held appropriately accountable when their rule noncompliance puts the people they serve at risk.” 

A qualified medical professional was initially required to be at the hospital for about 10 hours a week to oversee whether or not hospital staff were in compliance with state regulations. That was bumped up to 40 hours per week in March after licensers continued to find the hospital had violated safety rules. 

The latest disciplinary action came after licensers found problems at Highland Ridge, such as staff failing to report allegations of sexual abuse, not having enough nurses to change wound dressings and reports of patients being chemically restrained, put into seclusion or discharged from the hospital without their medications. Licensers wrote that the sanctions were necessary due to “repeated failures” to comply with state rules and significant discrepancies discovered that were “adverse to the public health, morals, welfare and safety of the people of the state.” 

In response to news of the hospital closing, the Disability Law Center released a statement urging state leaders to “take a hard look at our system and make any necessary reforms to protect the health and safety of Utahns with disabilities in facilities.” The organization also urged state officials to hold facilities accountable when they don’t keep patients safe—before more “needless tragedies” occur. λ