(NaturalNews) A federal Justice Department investigation has concluded that the psychiatric ward of Brooklyn's Kings County Hospital Center (KCHC) has been a place where patients are regularly abused by staff and other patients, and where treatment needs are ignored in favor of restraint and control.
"Substantial harm occurs regularly due to K.C.H.C.'s failure to properly assess, diagnose, supervise, monitor and treat its mental health patients," the department's 58-page report reads.
The report documents an environment where assault is regularly perpetrated between patients, where suicidal warning signs are ignored, and where staff regularly restrain patients instead of treating them. Among the more egregious cases cited are a physical fight between six patients resulting in one of them needing surgery, a 16-year old patient forcing a 14-year old patient to perform oral sex, and other incidents of sexual assault and rape.
The Justice Department accuses hospital staff of using vague, all-encompassing diagnoses and "boilerplate forms and checklists" rather than giving patients individual care. In one case, this meant that a patient's obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes were ignored, leading him to have a stroke.
The investigation found that patients were regularly left in physical restraints for the two hour maximum allowed, even if they calmed down before then. This suggested, the department said, that restraints are being used as a form of physical punishment. Sedation of patients with high-dose and potentially dangerous cocktails of antipsychotics was also a regular occurrence.
In at least three cases, hospital staff were found to have falsified records to cover up evidence of neglect. The most notorious of these cases involved the death of 49-year old Jamaican immigrant Esmin Green, who died on the floor of the ward's waiting room after waiting more than 24 hours for assistance. In that time, at least two hospital employees looked in on her lying on the floor but ignored her. It was a lawsuit over Green's case that sparked the federal investigation.
"While perhaps unique in the extent of the harm that resulted, the tragic case of Ms. Green typifies the patterns of inadequate care and treatment," the report says.