Texas probes Dallas hospital for patient abuse

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Associated Press

Posted on June 16, 2014 at 9:03 AM

DALLAS (AP) — Texas health authorities are investigating allegations that employees at a troubled Dallas hospital restrained and shoved toilet paper into the mouth of a mental health patient.

A nurse and co-worker also put a sheet over the patient's head at Parkland Memorial Hospital after she spit on them as they strapped her into a chair, authorities said, according to a Dallas Morning News report Sunday (http://bit.ly/1uuNvcj ).

Two of the employees who were present during the restraint have been fired, Parkland spokeswoman April Foran said. Two others resigned, and a fifth received "corrective action," she added.

A police report describing security video footage said blood was visible on the toilet paper after it was removed from the patient's mouth. The police investigation was closed within two days after the allegations were "unfounded."

But state health authorities are probing the March incident at the hospital that has been the target of a federal investigation and was taken over after a mental health patient who was restrained died in the emergency room in 2011.

State health regulations ban any patient restraints that would obstruct an airway or a person's ability to communicate. Parkland is also required to report any allegations of patient abuse within two days of becoming aware of the incident.

The incident with the toilet paper, however, was reported more than three weeks after it occurred.

"Employees on site did not elevate this incident appropriately," Foran said, noting that once managers became aware, immediate action was taken.

Parkland declined to name the employees involved. The Dallas Morning News says both have been previously investigated.

Parkland's internal police investigated the March incident and asked the Dallas County district attorney whether the employees involved should face assault charges. The prosecutor ruled the use of force was "unfortunate" but didn't rise to the level of criminal activity.

The state health department fined Parkland $1 million in 2012 for the 2011 emergency room death.

Dennis Borel, executive director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, said this latest incident shows that some of the hospital's psychiatric employees "still don't get it."

"This is pretty outrageous when it was just a few years ago that these kinds of actions were supposed to trigger training and other safe approaches at Parkland," Borel told the Morning News. "Everything in the patient's behavior indicates she was desperately trying to protect herself, and they were making it worse. They failed the patient miserably."

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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