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A yearlong Buzz Feed News investigation — based on interviews with 175 current and former UHS staff, including 18 executives who ran UHS hospitals; more than 120 additional interviews with patients, government investigators, and other experts; and a cache of internal documents — raises grave questions about the extent to which those profits were achieved at the expense of patients.
Scores of employees from at least a dozen hospitals said those facilities tried to keep beds filled even at the expense of the safety of their staff or the rights of the patients they were locking up.
Millwood Hospital is part of America’s largest psychiatric hospital chain, Universal Health Services, or UHS.
Its more than 200 psychiatric facilities across the country admitted nearly 450,000 patients last year.
Other main stories in the series include: A Six-Year-Old Gets Locked Up The Dark Side Of Shadow Mountain and related video A Prescription For Violence and related video Nothing To See Here On a cool October evening in 2012, Samantha Trimble walked into the lobby of Millwood Hospital, a low-slung brick building on the side of a road in Arlington, Texas, seeking a free mental health assessment.
A few weeks earlier in the AP world history class Trimble taught, after a kid started acting childish, she put a diaper on his head — something she admits was a bad idea.
Current and former employees from at least 10 UHS hospitals in nine states said they were under pressure to fill beds by almost any method — which sometimes meant exaggerating people’s symptoms or twisting their words to make them seem suicidal — and to hold them until their insurance payments ran out.
“I can honestly say in my hospital I never felt like people were being held long after they were due to be discharged,” said Bill Niles, who ran Roxbury Hospital in Pennsylvania for eight years.“They wanted you to perform with the highest standards,” said Shari Baker, who ran Palmetto Behavioral Lowcountry Hospital in South Carolina until earlier this year.
The probe involves more than 1 in 10 UHS psychiatric hospitals.
Three are being investigated criminally — including one facing allegations that it routinely misused Florida's involuntary commitment law to lock in patients who did not need hospitalization.
(Through a spokesperson, Miller declined repeated requests for an interview.) With thousands of patients getting pushed out of public hospitals, and with insurance companies willing to approve hospital stays of a month or more, the 1980s were a boom time for private psychiatric hospitals. By the early 1990s, when UHS was still a relatively small player, several of the top hospital chains were facing state or federal investigations and a slew of lawsuits from patients.
Meanwhile insurance companies tightened their policies, demanding shorter lengths of stay.