DOVER, Del. (AP)- Tales of patient abuse and poorly trained employees highlighted a legislative hearing Tuesday into problems at the state-run Delaware Psychiatric Center.
Relatives of patients at the New Castle hospital told lawmakers of loved ones being sexually assaulted and beaten by staffers, and of difficulties trying to get information from state officials about their welfare.
Pleading with lawmakers for help, Janice Ambrose tearfully told of her 21-year-old daughter, who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, being sexually assaulted at least twice and put in restraints for long periods of time.
Ambrose recounted one visit in which she saw drugged patients sitting in chairs in a common room while staffers watched TV with their feet propped on chairs, laughing as a naked man ran down the hallway.
“This state has a problem from the bottom up and the top down,” said Ambrose, who fears leaving her daughter at DPC but said she has nowhere else to turn.
“I can’t even get an outpatient psychiatrist to see her,” she said. “I need some help, my daughter needs help.”
Margaret Losink said she learned of a November incident in which her daughter allegedly was gagged and restrained so severely that she was left with bruises only by reading about it in the news.
“She never told me because she said she had to go back there,” said Losink, who said her daughter has been in and out of DPC for 12 years. “The hospital says she bruises easy, and she’s a spitter.”
Preliminary results from an investigation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that was prompted by the newspaper articles cited nine patient safety incidents during the past 12 months in which federal regulations were not met. In one case, a DPC staffer was indicted for assault earlier this month after a patient’s jaw was broken. Hospital officials initially said the patient had slipped on a mat and hit his face on a bed.
Also this month, a former DPC attendant was indicted on three counts of rape and six counts of patient abuse after allegedly raping a patient in a toilet and a staff break room last year.
Gloria Christmas, a nurse on duty when Losink’s daughter was restrained last fall, denied that she was gagged.
“She talked during the whole seclusion and restraint,” Christmas said. “… At no time was the towel put in her mouth.”
Other DPC employees also defended the facility Tuesday night, saying the hospital staff generally is concerned about patient care and that a few bad actors should not be allowed to bring the institution into disrepute.
“I take my job very seriously and I do it to the best of my ability,” said Zanthea Benson, a 17-year employee.
That’s a relief, for a minute there I was almost worried.