(Reuters) - A Republican senator said on Tuesday he had written to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) raising questions about reports of "troubling conduct" by psychiatric hospital operator Universal Health Services Inc.
The inquiry, by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, raises concerns about reports by BuzzFeed News of low nurse staffing, medication errors and sexual misconduct at UHS' Shadow Mountain facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Grassley said in his letter the reports showed a pattern of conduct by the hospital operator that "casts a dark cloud over UHS' ability to properly care for its patients and whether it is properly billing federal programs."
Founded in 1979, Pennsylvania-based UHS operates more than 240 acute care hospitals, behavioral health facilities and ambulatory centers.
Grassley has also sought a response from The Joint Commission, an accrediting organization, that reportedly designated the Shadow Mountain facility as a "Top Performer in Key Quality Measures" for the 2011-2015 period.
Grassley's letter is his second inquiry into UHS following a similar query to the HHS in December after BuzzFeed published its first report on the psychiatric hospital operator.
The Dec. 7 report alleged that UHS pressured patients into unnecessary admittance and prolonged hospitalizations, potentially defrauding the government as a result. (bzfd.it/2oJN8jw)
UHS' stock fell 12 percent on the day of the report.
Last week, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey accused UHS of employing unlicensed and unsupervised personnel at mental health centers, leading the company to submit false claims for reimbursement to the state's Medicaid program. (reut.rs/2pyi4TJ)
Healy's office filed a complaint in federal court in Boston after intervening in a whistleblower lawsuit against the hospital operator by the parents of a woman who died at one of its facilities.
UHS' shares were down 2.1 percent at $119.42 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar