AUGUSTA — The federal government notified the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday that it is terminating Riverview Psychiatric Center’s Medicare Provider Agreement, essentially shutting off some $20 million in annual federal funding at the state-run Augusta hospital.

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew vowed to appeal the Center for Medicaid Services’ decision.

“The decision made by the CMS to terminate simply does not pass the straight-face test,” said Mayhew in a prepared statement. “This inappropriate and unwarranted action jeopardizes access to vital psychiatric services for no reason, and I am confident we will win our appeal.”

According to DHHS, the decision was the result of two surveys conducted by the federal government, the first of which was in March 2013. CMS determined that the hospital was not in compliance in several areas.

In August, CMS accepted Riverview’s correction plan, which included removing 20 beds and creating a separate place for patients who are aggressive and pose safety risks to staff and other patients.

“We have taken significant steps to address these most critical issues around patient safety, staff safety, quality and well-documented treatment plans,” said Mary Louise McEwen, Riverview’s superintendent. “The remaining issues do not rise to a level of severity that warrants termination. Most are easily addressed and in one case, we are being held to a standard that we cannot find in the rules that govern participation in the Medicare program.”

The outstanding compliance problems at Riverview, as far as the federal government is concerned, involve follow-up measures to the separation of the potentially dangerous patients from the rest of the population. The unresolved concerns involve the development of reporting forms, the movement of equipment between the units and the sharing of staff.

“We cannot find in any of the federal rules a requirement that staffing in these units be separate,” said McEwen. “The staffing ratios in the hospital clearly meet federal requirements and can provide for appropriate care for our clients.”

Mayhew said she is confident the decision will be overturned.

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