Investigations underway into abuse at Kalamazoo Pyschiatric Hospital
Two separate investigations are looking into reports of patient and staff abuse at the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital.
The state-run hospital has been embroiled in controversy since a patient died from a lack of oxygen in March.
Meanwhile, staff at the hospital are being repeatedly injured by violent patients, says AFSCME's Stacie Dineen.
"I'm talking serious injuries, where they get their eye gouged or they get concussions or they have the stuffing beat out of them."
Pine Health Christian Mental Health Services will conduct an independent investigation, according to the Department of Community Health spokesperson Angela Mincicuci.
“At this facility earlier in the year, we came across issues involving the former director and other key leaders who were not properly looking into rights of patients at the hospital. Subsequently the former director resigned after being investigated. We’ve also had some dismissals and suspensions of staff, and we’re conducting our own investigation, but at this time as we work through that process, we’re conducting an outside independent review of the way the hospital is currently set up to ensure this doesn’t become a trend for the hospital. We do have two subsequent parallel investigations that are not interacting with each other. Number one, our department of the Office of Recipient Rights, we are conducting an investigation of 28 individuals at this time, who are employed at the hospital to make sure to ensure patient care is being protected and also staff safety is being addressed.”
We reached out to Pine Rest Christian, and a spokesperson conveyed that they are a long-standing mental health care provider with deep ties in the community, but she did not want to be interviewed. The Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital also declined.
But we did talk with the staff’s representative, Stacie Dineen.
Stacie, how did we get to this point that the hospital is being investigated?
“We’ve had quite a few different things happen: we had a bunch of seasoned staff that retired and left the hospital.
"Now what we have is several of our members who are off for investigation, and as a result several more are working mandatory overtime continually and creating another unsafe environment."
We had doctors whose treatment plans ... affected what’s going on over there quite a bit.
We had a lot of new staff coming in and changes in training. There used to be very good training that went on, and that has changed.
Now what we have is several of our members who are off for investigation, and as a result several more are working mandatory overtime continually and creating another unsafe environment."
What, exactly, has been unsafe for workers at Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital?
"One, I think there have been changes in treatment, so in several cases patients aren’t using the same types of medications and restraints that have been traditionally used in the past. Those have been reduced.
We have other kinds of patients coming into the hospital that traditionally would have been in a penal institution instead of a mental institution.
And the training and education, a lot of stuff is done by computer instead of hands-on training.
We’ve had several labor management meetings through the years where the top issue is safety. And a lot of cases, we’ve come up with ideas that could make it more safe. Sometimes we’re heard. Sometimes we’re not.
"I think that patients' rights are very important. But in some cases the patients' rights are put over the safety of the staff and patients that are around them."
I think that patients’ rights are very important. But in some cases the patients’ rights are put over the safety of the staff and patients that are around them.
A few years ago they changed the policy about what visitors could bring to the hospital. And it used to be you shook down a room to make sure there wasn’t anything in there the patient could use to harm themselves.
And now it’s a violation of their rights to go in there and just shake it down. So, some of those types of things where there used to be measures in place to keep them safe – they’re not there."
And so you're saying staff have sustained injuries because of this?
"We’ve got different numbers out there as to how many injuries are actually there. They’re all reported. If the incident reports were provided, they would show how many there are.
I read about [all the times] the police come to the hospital. That’s just when the police are called.
Staff go out regularly. We always have several off on medical or workers' comp because of patient attacks.
The staff there, I couldn’t do the job they do. Every single day their lives are put in jeopardy.
And I’m not talking minor injuries. I’m talking serious injuries where they get their eye gouged or they have concussions or they ... have the stuffing beat out of them.
They have problems with the alarm, if there’s a problem they’re supposed to push it and people come running. [The alarms] fail all the time.
They can’t contradict doctor’s orders, but sometimes some of the things that are put in place there, the staff do not believe are in the best interest.
So if a doctor says you have to hold somebody for a certain amount of time, you hold them.”
The Michigan Department of Community Health says the investigation conducted by Pine Rest Christian should wrap up in January 2015.