A North Carolina mental hospital has been fined $15,300 for failing to protect its employees from violent patients. The government-run Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro experienced at least eight employee injuries this year. The employees were injured in patient attacks or when the employee attempted to break up fights that broke out between patients or with patients and other staff.
The Department of Labor fined the hospital for violating federal workplace safety regulations. They were also cited for failing to report injuries to regulators. The report recommended that the state implement more resources to prevent and control patient attacks, including more staff and better training.
The hospital and a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services disagree with the citations and plan to appeal the agency's findings.
A Hospital with a History of Problems
Cherry Hospital has a reputation for patient abuse. In 2008, the hospital had its Medicaid and Medicare funding revoked when a patient died after choking on his medication, falling and hitting his head. Rather than giving the patient medical attention, it was found that the hospital put him in a chair and left him for nearly a day.
After this incident, the hospital was put on a "zero tolerance" policy for patient abuse. But hospital employees complained that the changes the hospital made in response to the zero tolerance policy left them exposed to patient attacks. Employees were afraid to defend themselves from patient attacks in fear it would be considered patient abuse and they would lose their jobs.
The hospital has responded to the patient abuse allegations to their employees' detriment. A policy that protects both patients and employees needs to be established. Hospitals are responsible for their employee's and their patient's safety. Negligently failing to prevent injuries to their staff or their patients may make them liable for the injuries their negligence has caused.