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Universal Health Services facilities under scrutiny

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Jamie Westendorff of West Ashley Outdoor Catering is The Post and Courier's Jefferson Award nominee. Seen outside his shop Thursday, he was one of 60 selected nationwide to attend a banquet in Washington, D.C.

Youth treatment centers operated by Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services have run into problems in other states, as well. Below are some examples:

The Keys of Carolina

North Carolina inspectors threatened to pull the license of The Keys of Carolina treatment center in Charlotte last year following a series of violent incidents.

State inspectors moved in after a 2009 incident in which a 15-year-old was stabbed in the eye with 3 1/2-inch nail by a fellow resident. The attack occurred after one teen teased and gossiped about the other having been raped by a relative as a toddler.

He gleaned that confidential information from staff notebooks that had been left unattended, according to state documents.

The facility failed to report the incident to the state as required when a hospitalization occurs, state officials said.

Follow-up visits uncovered a host of additional problems, including training deficiencies, improper restraint techniques and failure to follow treatment plans, according to state reports.

Inspectors also documented an escape and incidents of violence, including a patient requiring staples to close a gash in his head that occurred while he was reportedly "horse playing" with a staff member.

The state eventually reached a settlement with The Keys in October that allowed the center to keep operating. The center, which admitted no wrongdoing, agreed to pay a $26,500 penalty and conduct more training for staff.

The Pines

Virginia officials moved on April 25 to freeze admissions to The Pines Residential Treatment Center, which operates three facilities in Norfolk and Portsmouth for children with psychiatric and behavioral problems.

The state Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services also issued a provisional license for The Pines, a step taken before a license is revoked, said Meghan McGuire, a department spokeswoman. The Pines, owned by Universal Health Services, is licensed to care for 424 children.

McGuire said the moves "are not related to any one incident, but are the result of ongoing performance issues that must be corrected to ensure safety and effective treatment for the troubled children there."

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk reported that the action occurred after state investigators determined that The Pines failed to report and document an allegation of sexual abuse at one of its facilities.

Old Vineyard Youth Services

North Carolina regulators required Old Vineyard Youth Services in Winston-Salem to correct deficiencies last year after investigators found evidence of improper sexual contact between two male teen residents, documents show.

A 14-year-old boy accused his 17-year-old roommate of forcing him to have oral sex and trying to rape him while staff members were preoccupied with a disturbance in the unit, a state report show. Investigators reviewed video footage that showed the boys engaged in sex acts, records show, but prosecutors reportedly determined that the evidence did not warrant criminal charges.

The facility, which did not admit wrongdoing, agreed to improve monitoring procedures and training for staff.

Several other problems were uncovered during 2009 visits, including medication errors and an allegation that a patient had engaged in oral sex with a staff member, reports show. The facility worked to correct the problems identified and fired the staff member in question, records show.

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