Federal officials clear state mental hospital

Nearly a year after it was cut off from government insurance reimbursements following a patient death, a state mental hospital in Morganton is back in the good graces of federal regulators.

The state Department of Health and Human Services received a letter Wednesday confirming that Broughton Hospital is again certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The loss of the federal money had cost North Carolina taxpayers about $13 million in revenue since the hospital was decertified in August.

The regulators yanked Broughton's certification after one patient died and another was seriously injured.

In February 2007, patient Anthony Lowery, 27, suffocated after staff members held him to the floor, with one person reportedly lying across his chest. Months later, a female patient who was supposed to be closely supervised suffered a serious head injury in a fall.

The reinstatement is contingent on the U.S. Justice Department confirming that there are no pending complaints against the hospital for violating the civil rights of patients.

The hospital is still working to retain its accreditation from The Joint Commission, an independent body that rates medical facilities.

The commission issued a preliminary denial of accreditation in December, but the state has appealed the decision.

Broughton, which has 313 patient beds, serves patients from a region that includes the state's 27 westernmost counties.