CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Two patients at Wyoming State Hospital died when mental health facility staff failed to follow procedures in a series of incidents of choking, neglect and medication error at the past four months, according to a lawsuit.
protection & Advocacy System Inc. filed a lawsuit against the Wyoming Department of Health and directors of state hospitals last week in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. He seeks to force the department to release video recordings from inside the hospital following recent patient suicides, a rape by a staff member and the abandonment of an unfit woman in a ward without food, water or bathing for more than 24 hours. The woman, Linda Gelok, was found reeking with urine and with ants crawling on wounds.
Cheyenne based protection & Advocacy System Inc. is a private, non-profit corporation mandated by law to investigate the abuse and neglect of people with mental or developmental disabilities. He has filed several lawsuits against Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston over the past three decades.
“We feel we have no choice but to do so because we are gravely concerned for the life, health and safety of patients at Wyoming State Hospital,” Protection said. & Advocacy System, Andy Lemke, said via email Monday.
Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti declined to comment Monday on the latest trial or hospital conditions.
The Ministry of Health has stopped giving protection & Advocacy System requested video recordings from October. Hospital director Paul Mullenax told Protection & Advocacy System, the hospital was considering whether to register unwitting patients under Medicaid and Medicare regulations, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Without access to video, Protection & Advocacy System should rely on “inconsistent” and “vague” incident reports, “inaccurate and misleading” observation logs and inaccurate witness statements when investigating patient treatment, according to the court case.
According to the lawsuit, a patient with missing teeth and no dentures died of suffocation on July 22 after eating large chunks of meat and bread. The video showed that hospital staff failed to follow through on a soft food order only after the patient had previously swallowed a hamburger whole and choked, according to the lawsuit.
Less than a week earlier, hospital staff had found a patient dead, stiff and cold in his room. The vomit was on the floor.
Hospital staff that morning noted during required security checks every 15 minutes that the patient was “calm” and “resting” with “eyes closed”. , the lawsuit alleges.
The video showed the patient coughing during breakfast, another detail missing from written hospital records, according to the lawsuit.
Other recent incidents documented by video include a patient suffering from slurred speech and weakness shortly after a head injury on Friday, but not taken to the emergency room until Monday; a patient who nearly choked on food; and a patient who took another patient’s medication.
Since October, the department has not granted protection & Advocacy System video of another patient who nearly choked to death, patients swapping drugs with each other, and a patient taken to the ER after choking on drugs, according to the lawsuit, which did not name the patients.
Earlier this year, Protection & Advocacy System alleged in a lawsuit against Mullenax and Health Department Director Stefan Johansson that hospital officials were preventing the organization’s access to patients. The case is pending.
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