State hospital staff are accused of rape, abuse, and neglect.
The quality of mental health care can vary greatly by location, and with the uptick in demand, it’s important to provide the best care and attention possible when individuals and their families seek help. Unfortunately, a new lawsuit involving Wyoming State Hospital shows that this doesn’t always happen.
Two Wyoming State Hospital patients recently lost their lives while staff at the mental health facilities failed to follow required protocols. Protection & Advocacy System Inc. filed a lawsuit against the Wyoming Department of Health, citing a “series of choking, neglect and medication error incidents over the past four months.”
The suit is asking for the court to compel the health department to release video footage inside the facility following “recent patient suicides, a rape by a staffer, and an incapacitated woman’s abandonment in a dayroom without food, water or bathroom use for over 24 hours.” The woman, Linda Gelok, was discovered covered in her own urine, with ants crawling on her sores.
The state’s health department stopped providing video recordings to the plaintiff in October. Hospital Director Paul Mullenax told Protection & Advocacy System at the time that the hospital “was reviewing whether it should be recording patients without their knowledge under Medicaid and Medicare regulations.” Without access to these recordings, the case would have to be based solely on incident reports which the advocacy group has called “inconsistent,” “vague,” and “inaccurate and misleading.”
The video recordings, according to the Protection & Advocacy Inc., have revealed evidence of neglect and abuse that were not included in the incident reports. In fact, it wasn’t until after reviewing the footage that the organization determined what actually happened was far different than what had been initially documented in most cases.
For example, a patient was found dead, rigid and cold in their room with vomit on the floor. Hospital staff noted they’d performed required safety checks every 15 minutes. However, the video recordings revealed that the employees only glanced into the patient’s room. They had noted the patient was “calm” and “resting,” but this could not have been determined by their vantage point in the hallway.
“Video showed the patient coughing during breakfast, another detail absent from written hospital records,” according to the lawsuit.
Video footage has also revealed other concerning evidence, including a patient presenting with concerning symptoms following a head injury not being taken to a hospital and a patient taking the medication of another patient.
The Protection & Advocacy System Inc. has filed numerous lawsuits against Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston over the past thirty years. The organization’s attorney Andy Lemke said of the recent action, “We feel that we have no choice but to do so as we are gravely concerned about the life, health and safety of the patients at the Wyoming State Hospital.”
In January of this year, when video footage was still accessible, the organization first accused hospital administrators of restricting access to the hospital’s patients. Specifically, it accused the hospital of “repeatedly attempting to block, delay, impede and obstruct its federal access authority,” according to the suit.