City Desk

St. Elizabeths: New Building, Same Old Abuses

Today, University Legal Services, a non-profit legal service agency federally mandated to provide advocacy and oversight for D.C. residents with disabilities, published its third report on conditions at St. Elizabeths Hospital. While the lawyers praised the opening of the new hospital, it still found that individuals' care hadn't improved: "the same issues that have been addressed in the past continue to occur even in the new Hospital."

St. E's can still be a rough place. For it's roughly 300 patients last year, there were 388 physical assaults. In July and August, there were 88 assaults on patients and staff. This past year, there were also 63 reports of "abuse, neglect or exploitation" as well as 10 sexual assaults, and 342 reports of physical injury–of which 158 were the result of physical assaults.

There's more bad stats after the jump.

At St. E's last year there were seven suicide attempts and 12 deaths. University Legal Services quotes hospital officials acknowledging the violence is higher than national stats: "The patient injury rate of the Hospital in not only significantly higher than the national public rate...but a critical increase from its FY09 patient injury rate...Patient injuries significantly increased since April 2010 and staff injuries increased since May 2010."

During the course of its investigative work, the lawyers found "nurses who failed to do adequate assessments or keep adequate records of the care provided. Six of the seven individuals had serious medical conditions that were not addressed in a professional or competent way."

The lawyers also found patients who had previously been victims of rape who were repeatedly restrained by men, one well-known suicide risk who was given razor blades and had then gone to horrifically cut himself, and another patient who died shortly after being admitted into St. E's. She had a history of pulmonary embolisms, the report states, and yet when she arrived at the mental hospital, she wasn't given any meds for her condition. "There were no records of nurses at St. Elizabeths monitoring her for symptoms of this disorder or any suggestion that St. Elizabeths was even aware of this problem," the report states.

The report goes on to cite a Department of Justice letter sent to a D.C. Assistant Attorney General dated Jan. 5, 2011 which addresses staff alleged indifference toward patients. The letter states: "Although some staff demonstrated and verbalized a caring attitude toward individuals, others were entirely disengaged, often milling back and forth between work areas and areas where individuals were sitting."

The Hospitals own assessment report dated Oct. 7, 2010, the lawyers found, provides zero mentions of the violent attacks as well as very little attention toward staff training.

We will have more on this report in subsequent posts. To read the lawyers' report in its entirety, go here.

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  • OneryOne

    more liberal drivel from the likes of jerkis. a mckenna he aint, as hard as he may try. oh well, probably just needs to get out of the apartment.

    lets just drop a few more billion into this mess - sound about right, jason? will that cure your white guilt?

  • Jason Cherkis

    Wow name calling. How enlightening of you! Thank you for "reading." If you had read this piece carefully--and maybe, maybe the PDF--you might realize that much of the problems cited in this report come down to better staffing, and attention to critical details like say if someone is suicidal to not give them razor blades.

    But again, thanks for "reading."

  • eli

    Jason, you need to look into the crazy relationship between SEH & Unity Health. In the past all physical health care had to be provided by Unity which was a logistical nightmare. Is this still the case?

  • Truth Hurts

    What's one city doing about this?

  • gratefulone

    Thank you Jason for your responsible coverage; it's unfortunate that merely reporting facts means ur subjected to such hateful rhetoric.