Over 50 Dead in Texas Hospital ScandalDec 3, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Over 50 mentally disabled patients died in the past year in large Texas state-run institutions—also known as state schools—all from preventable conditions that were typically linked to poor care, according to a federal investigation, said the Associated Press (AP).
The AP reported that some of the investigation’s findings included one resident swallowing a latex glove three times; another resident—a teenager—with what the AP characterized as mild retardation, might have been raped by one of the institution’s male employees.
Worse, noted the AP, the federal investigation reviewed no less than 500 allegations that included claims of “abuse, neglect, and other mistreatment that occurred from the very short period from July through September. The allegations were indicated in a letter sent by the Department of Justice to Texas Governor Rick Perry, said the AP. Another finding noted that “the frequent and ‘disconcerting’" use of physical restraints was a factor in many of the injuries, reported the AP, pointing to the January 2007 death of a teenage resident who “died while being held in restraints,” according to the letter. The letter also cited an injury at another facility later the same year in which, "staff reportedly broke a resident's shin bone as they slammed him to the ground during a restraint," reported the AP.
The AP pointed out that the letter stated that over 800 employees from the 13 cited facilities were suspended or fired for mistreating patients since fiscal year 2004, a fact first brought to public attention by the AP this past April, indicating that the problem of reckless abuse and poor care has been ongoing for some time in the Texas state school institution system.
This is the third time in as many years that the Justice Department has investigated the Texas facilities, which are also known as state schools, said the AP, which noted that “similar findings” were also revealed in 2006 at the Lubbock State School; however, the letter cited by the AP discusses a dozen other state schools. The AP also reported that no less than 114 such residents died in the 12-month period from last to this September. The letter noted, said the AP, that while some of the deceased residents were considered “medically fragile,” over 50 of the deaths appeared have resulted from “avoidable conditions” that included “pneumonia, bowel obstructions, or sepsis.”
While a spokeswoman with the group that is responsible for the deadly institutions discussed improvement and investigations, advocate Jeff Garrison-Tate, is calling for state school closure and described the report to the AP as "devastating and horrifying." Garrison-Tate expressed concern that the Legislature will likely provide the institutions funding for staffing as opposed to putting funding and other resources in community-based group homes, said the AP. "These places are not fixable," Garrison-Tate told the AP, adding that, "It scares the heck out of me that the Legislature might dump more money into these toilets." Meanwhile, Texas agency spokeswoman Laura Albrecht, said state officials are reviewing the investigation's findings, reported the AP, which also noted that Albrecht said, via email, that the state schools are “adding positions, improving staff training, reducing the use of restraints, and expanding community services for state school residents.”