- RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A patient at a Virginia state-run mental hospital
lay flat on her back, bound hand and foot in heavy leather restraints,
for hundreds of hours until she died.
- At another Virginia psychiatric hospital,
a patient died after the hospital failed to treat her despite her complaints
and warnings from family that she was dying.
- The deaths have left Virginia's $700-million
mental-health system scrambling to restore public trust amid scrutiny by
the U.S. Justice Department, the news media, and harsh criticism by patient-advocacy
- The state cabinet secretary responsible
for the mental-health system promised last month to raise confidence in
the system and improve patients' rights protection. "Human rights
is a very critical issue. We don't want the feds continuing to come into
Virginia and tell us how to run our facilities," Claude Allen said.
- The U.S. Justice Department has been
investigating Virginia's mental hospitals since 1990 for what it says is
inadequate patient care that has led to dangerous, sometimes life-threatening
- Lawsuits were settled last summer in
cases involving Eastern State Hospital, Northern Virginia Mental Health
Institute and Northern Virginia Training Center, which cares for the mentally
- Laurie Flynn of the National Alliance
for the Mentally Ill said no state has more federal mental-health investigations
as Virginia. "It's a remarkable sign of the relatively poor quality,"
- Gloria Huntley, a patient at Central
State Hospital, died in June 1996 after lying in restraints for 300 hours,
including two stretches of nearly 110 hours straight, as punishment for
outbursts against staff. A memo written a year earlier by her former doctor
warned restraints could kill Huntley because she suffered from asthma and
- The Justice Department sharply rebuked
the Petersburg hospital in July 1997, accusing it of failing to protect
the rights of Huntley, 31, and other patients by subjecting them to abuse,
inadequate care and even death. The state mental-health commissioner resigned
two months later.
- The hospital chief was transferred and
Virginia is now spending millions of dollars to fix problems. The amount
of time it held patients in seclusion and restraints decreased from 1,100
hours a month in July 1996, to fewer than 200 hours in December 1997, said
a report the hospital filed with a state patients' rights agency.
- The hospital also changed its former
policy allowing restraints to be used as punishment. Now, they're used
only for patients who are a danger to themselves or others.
- At Western State Hospital in Staunton,
patient records show nothing was done for Maura Patten between July 3,
1997, when her sister told the hospital Patten feared she was dying, and
July 7, when she was found dead in her bed. A wheezing Patten, 41, called
her family and said she was not allowed to carry her inhaler, even though
she had nearly died from respiratory failure three years earlier.
- At the same hospital, Carl McCloskey
claimed his son, John McCloskey, 19, was sodomized with a broom-like handle
so savagely by staff his bowel was torn and his liver punctured. The teenager
became violently ill at the mental hospital and lapsed into a coma, dying
14 months later. Western State Hospital has strongly denied the charges.
- The Justice Department is now considering
whether to investigate the hospital, said spokeswoman Lee Douglass.
- Virginia treats 2,200 patients with severe
mental illness at nine psychiatric hospitals. Eastern State, Central State
and Western State house more than one-half of them.