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Rush closes mental health units after state finds potential risks to patients

State officials identified multiple ligature risks, or places that could be used by patients to hang or strangle themselves, in a recent inspection.

Rush University Medical Center has temporarily closed its mental health units for renovations to address patient safety concerns raised by state inspectors in late March.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Rush University Medical Center’s inpatient mental health units remain closed to patients two months after they were closed to address safety issues raised by state inspectors.

State officials touring Rush’s Behavioral Health units in late March found multiple “ligature” risks in patient rooms — features that could be used by patients to hang or strangle themselves, according to an Illinois Department of Public Health inspection report completed on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Rush spokesman Charlie Jolie said the inspectors were looking into reports of a suicide attempt at the hospital in late March.

The state’s report details a March 16 incident in which a woman admitted to the hospital for suicidal ideations tried to stab herself in the neck with a ballpoint pen.

Jolie said the hospital was already planning on renovating the units to bring them into compliance with state and federal ligature risk regulations, but decided to close the units on March 30 to “accelerate the construction” and address the issues identified by inspectors.

“As you can imagine, in a hospital it’s tough to work around patients,” Jolie said. “It just made more sense to temporarily close these until we could do all the construction as quickly and well as we could to better serve our patients.”

Risks identified in the state’s report included hinges outside doors and bathroom sinks protruding from walls with empty space underneath, as well as furniture that was not attached to the floors.

Jolie said the construction is “going well” and should be completed by the end of June. The units will then have to be inspected by the state again before they can reopen.

The hospital’s three behavioral health units have about 70 beds total, although they weren’t all filled at the time of the closure, Jolie said. Fewer than 10 patients were transferred to other facilities, while the rest were transferred to other inpatient areas of the hospital until they could be safely discharged.