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3rd Agency Probes Pine Grove Hospital

October 25, 2002|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

Following on the heels of state and county investigations, a national agency that inspects hospitals opened a new inquiry Thursday into sexual misconduct at Pine Grove Hospital in West Hills.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations asked officials at the private psychiatric hospital to provide information on four of the five reported instances of sexual molestation involving Pine Grove patients and former patients that have occurred since 2000, said Mark Forstneger, spokesman for the Illinois-based commission.

"We take these instances very seriously," Forstneger said. "We are going to follow up on all of them."

Pine Grove administrator Larry McFarland declined to comment Thursday. But in previous interviews, he noted that the hospital has made a number of changes to ensure patient safety.

In August, a 17-year-old boy who was a patient raped a 13-year-old girl in Pine Grove's adolescent ward. An inquiry by the state Department of Health Services found the hospital violated its own rules by failing to place a monitor in the hallway. The boy pleaded guilty to one count of a lewd act with a child.

Two former Pine Grove employees have also been convicted since 2000 for having sex with underage girls who were patients at the hospital. Los Angeles police detectives investigated two other former employees accused of molesting patients, but did not file charges.

Forstneger said his agency would scrutinize all reported episodes, except one involving the August 2000 rape of an underage girl in a hospital bathroom, which the agency has already investigated.

The nonprofit commission currently lists Pine Grove as a fully accredited hospital "with full standards of compliance," its highest rating.

However, the hospital's accreditation was downgraded after a May 2001 inspection found that Pine Grove was underperforming in three areas: staff training, assessment of employee competence and "special procedures" -- a category that includes such sensitive treatment methods as restraint, seclusion and psychosurgery.

The commission would not elaborate on the nature of the problems. The hospital showed that it had resolved the problems that led to the citations by December 2001, and its status was upgraded.

The current inquiry, Forstneger said, will determine the severity of the episodes and allegations. The commission will then determine whether the hospital thoroughly revised its rules and procedures to prevent any recurrence, he said.

Results of similar investigations by the state Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health are due to be released in the next few weeks.

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