State turns thumbs-down on Wilsonville psychiatric hospital

The Oregon Health Authority has rejected an application from a Pennsylvania healthcare company to build a 100-bed psychiatric hospital in Wilsonville. State officials said Universal Health Services failed to prove there was a need for the facility or...

State turns thumbs-down on Wilsonville psychiatric hospital

The Oregon Health Authority has rejected an application from a Pennsylvania healthcare company to build a 100-bed psychiatric hospital in Wilsonville.

State officials said Universal Health Services failed to prove there was a need for the facility or that its planned $35 million facility offered the most efficient means to meet local requirements.

The company managed to satisfy just one of eight requirements necessary to gain approval of its certificate of need application, the state said.

Universal vowed to appeal the state's denial. "We have not been notified  of any rejection," said company spokesman David Carter in an email. "If it is true, we intend to vigorously pursue an appeal.  We also find it curious that the media would have advance knowledge prior to an applicant being informed."

The Oregon Health Authority approves most applications with little fanfare. But Universal's Wilsonville plan drew opposition from mental health advocates, organized labor and competing healthcare companies.

Four large local players -- Legacy Health, Adventist Health, Oregon Health Sciences University and Kaiser Permanente Northwest -- just opened the Unity Center, a new psychiatric hospital, in Northeast Portland. They argued that with the addition of Unity's 82 beds and 24-hour-a-day psychiatric emergency room, the region didn't need another in-patient psychiatric hospital.

Mental health advocates and the federal government have for years pushed Oregon to de-emphasize institutional treatment centers in favor of small, community-based facilities.

Critics also raised questions about the quality of care at some Universal institutions and a federal criminal investigation into possible billing fraud that has dragged on for four years.

The city of Wilsonville enthusiastically supported Universal's bid. The hospital would have employed 250.

-- Jeff Manning

503-294-7606, jmanning@oregonian.com

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