State credits Wellpath for API accreditation, but work took place before contract

The Dunleavy administration has made privatizing the Alaska Psychiatric Institute a priority, choosing the company it wants to run the hospital, Wellpath, under a sole-source contract worth $84 million.

Many serious questions remain about the handling of this contract and the behavior of state officials involved with it.

Here is one raised by a court complaint filed by the Alaska State Employees Association, which represents 211 of the state employees at the state hospital.

How much credit for an accreditation decision made April 3 by the Joint Commission goes to Wellpath?

Health Commissioner Adam Crum and Wellpath are saying that Wellpath made all the difference.

“Our team arrived at API in February, and since then, four new psychiatrists have been hired at API, with more coming. API just saw its accreditation with the Joint Commission renewed - a huge achievement,” four executives of Wellpath said in a guest opinion published Tuesday by the Anchorage Daily News.

Crum issued a press release last Friday in which he defended the wisdom of hiring Wellpath and said the company was vital to the accreditation decision.

But there is a discrepancy in the timeline that leads me to believe that the groundwork to win accreditation actually took place before the no-bid contract with Wellpath took effect Feb. 8.

The report by the Joint Commission says the last full survey of the hospital as part of the accreditation process took place on Dec. 14, 2018. The “last on-site survey” took place on Jan. 29.

In his press release, Crum said the Joint Commission identified two areas that needed improvement on Dec. 14. He said the state was in “imminent danger” of losing accreditation for psychiatric care and it needs that ranking to qualify to receive federal funds.

“These deficiencies were successfully addressed by API and Wellpath with confirmation by The Joint Commission through further on-site visits and review of documentation provided as evidence of compliance with the standards,” Crum’s press release said.

The only other on-site visit took place before Wellpath was on the job.

His statement does not make it clear that Wellpath arrived in February and that whatever deficiencies remained, the Joint Commission did not believe they were serious enough to require another on-site visit after the one on Jan. 29.

The overall argument by the state and Wellpath to defend the sole-source contract is that Wellpath is a vital part of ending the crisis at API.

In its lawsuit seeking a court order to halt the no-bid privatization plan and comply with a labor contract requirement for an analysis and other issues, the union says it is false to give credit to Wellpath for the accreditation decision. The calendar confirms the union charge.

Dermot Cole3 Comments