Documents: Psych Hospital staff asked for help

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Internal documents obtained by 24 Hour News 8 show Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital staff tried to get help to handle a patient who was allegedly assaulted, but didn’t get a response.

The documents show more than one attempt was made.

“Our priority was and our priority always is to ensure the safety of both our patients and our employees and to ensure quality care,” said Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Bur there are allegations that didn’t happen in at least 19 different incidents of assault on a patient that happened between June and October of 2014. The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety is investigating whether employees’ actions were criminal. The MDCH and the Office of Recipient Rights are also looking into the allegations. 28 employees have been placed on paid suspension and more may be taken off the job as the investigation progresses.

Monday, one of the suspended staff members told 24 Hour News 8 that staff never intentionally hurt the patient. Instead, they were trying to psychically restrain violent outburst from the patient, who due to kidney problems had been taken off of a medication that calmed him.

Mike Fitzgerald. (Nov. 3, 2014)
(Fitzgerald talks to 24 Hour News 8’s Leon Hendrix.)

“I never saw anyone hurt him,” said Mike Fitzgerald, 64, who is a resident care aide at the hospital and has worked there for the past decade. “We were always defending ourselves.”

But the patient sustained a broken arm during at least one of the struggles, broken teeth and other injuries, Fitzgerald said. He said some of the staffers were also hurt in the conflicts.

24 Hour News 8 got internal documents that appear to show at least one hospital supervisor asked for help more than once — once in May and again in June after there was no reply.

“Now we’re being blamed,” said Fitzgerald.

Wednesday, 24 Hour News 8 asked the state about those requests.

“I am not aware of any letters requesting help,” MDCH spokeswoman Smith said.

24 Hour News 8 provided state officials with a copy of the documents and they said they will look into it. 24 Hour News 8 will follow up.

The staff’s union president, George White, confirmed the union filed  a complaint with the hospital on Wednesday for alleged misconduct on the part of the Office of Recipient Rights.

“Since April of this year, the members have actively campaigned for safer conditions for patients and staff. I now believe in having the whole truth be told is the best way to accomplish that,” White said when asked why the complaint had been filed.

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