Ex-employee raises concerns over children’s hospital: ‘Our job is to make sure that they’re safe’

Posted at 11:57 PM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 19:39:29-04

NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. -- For five months, the state was in the dark about dozens of serious allegations happening at a New Kent hospital for children.

It all happened at Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents.

A CBS 6 investigation found that between January and June, two dozen incidents involving ten patients at the residential facility that treats kids who are chronically ill, or have neurological and or behavioral issues, weren’t being entered into the state’s computerized human rights information system or CHRIS.

According to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, entering data into CHRIS must happen within 24 hours of each allegation.

“They found discrepancies, they found that there were many issues that the state should have been notified about but they weren’t,” former Cumberland Hospital Program Coordinator Kimberly Bass said.

The hospital was cited with noncompliance with human rights regulations.

“DBHDS requires providers to provide necessary information about abuse, neglect and exploitation. This citation highlighted the provider's failure to do that in those instances,”  DBHDS spokesperson Meghan McGuire said.

“How long are people allowed to be deficient in the care and quality that they are giving to the kids until we say enough is enough? “

In January, Bass was hired as the program coordinator for the 16-bed residential facility.

“We basically become their caregivers, that's what we are and our job is to make sure that they're safe.”

But in doing so, Bass says she lost her job just seven months after starting.

“I got fired for what? Because, I won't sit back and allow kids to get abused, neglected, or exploited and do nothing about it?" Bass said.

‘” Patient acting out,"  “Self-injury," “Patient attacked," Bass read from a list of incidents recorded inside Cumberland Hospital, documents that CBS 6 exclusively obtained.

“This internal document ended up in the hands of the Department of Health, and they compared that report with what was entered into the system and they found discrepancies. They found that there were many issues that the state should have been notified about but they weren’t,” Bass said.

According to a June 20 state inspection report, the hospital was cited for "noncompliance with human rights regulations," among several citations.

The investigation found that between January and June, two dozen incidents involving 10 patients went unreported - everything from patients injuring staff to hurting and threatening each other.

But it's the alleged incident that Bass says happened inside a bedroom between two female teens that ultimately led to her termination.

“On July 28, there were two minor girls in a bedroom for 4 hours and both girls had a history of sexual trauma, sexual abuse, sexually acting out, and we do 15-minute checks at minimum,” said Bass.

Bass says she was told by a fellow staff member those checks never happened that Sunday, and the teens allegedly admitted to sexually acting out.

Bass says she called and informed the girls` parents and entered the incident into the CHRIS system, initiating an investigation.

She says Cumberland Hospital ultimately cleared the staff on duty that day of wrongdoing.

“The first thing I thought to myself is 'this woman is going to continue to play movies for hours every weekend she works and this is going to continue to happen',”  Bass said.

Bass went on to express her discontent with management.

“I’m telling you about wrongdoings that are going on internally and you write me up, I tell you about kids that being neglected and you fire me!" she said.

Bass sent an email to state officials August 20, documenting the alleged event. The state then sent a licensing specialist to Cumberland Hospital on September 5, conducting its own investigation.

After reviewing three hours of video footage they determined staff did conduct rounds every 10 minutes and that individuals were in and out of their bedrooms. For privacy reasons, they don’t have cameras inside rooms. They were unable to interview the teens in the complaint because they had been discharged.

The investigation determined the complaint was not substantiated and the hospital was in compliance with regulations.

As for why Bass was discharged, Cumberland documented it was for "denying a resident use of the bathroom."

Bass denies that allegation.

“If any child has to use the bathroom they go to their assigned staff and they make that request,” said Bass. “That's not in my job description nor my title."

Bass is now receiving unemployment after an investigation determined that she was not fired because of any misconduct at work.

“I was speaking out while I was working so I am doing nothing different then what I was doing when I was at the job, the only difference is when I reached out to my company, they didn’t want to hear me,” Bass said.

CBS 6 reached out to Universal Health Services, which owns Cumberland Hospital.

A spokesperson for the hospital said,

“Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents provides integrated care combining medical, psychotherapeutic, rehabilitative, behavioral and educational services for young people challenged by both complex medical and emotional needs. We have been privileged to serve our community since 1983. Our facility is in good standing with all regulatory and accrediting bodies including The Joint Commission, State of VA Licensure, and the regional Human Rights Advocate.

The facts as depicted by the terminated employee are inaccurate. I can confirm that incidents are to be reported to the state regulatory agency within 24 of occurrence. In fact, this reporting obligation was the responsibility of the former employee referenced and was not carried out in the identified instance. Our facility has established operating procedures and protocols in place. We do not tolerate deviation from our high standards or for compliance with required practices.

We pride ourselves on the positive outcomes achieved for the vast majority of our patients. Patient feedback is critical to the care we provide. Through June of this year, patients rated their satisfaction as 4.4 out of 5.”

-Gay Brooks, CEO

Cumberland Hospital

Bass said she was unaware of the unreported incidents and blames the non-compliance on senior management.

“It’s more so what senior management should have done after they received that information that an incident happened on the unit they should have notified me and had me put it into the CHRIS system in order for it to be entered,” said Bass. “This was an issue at the senior management level because they had all the knowledge.”

“Most of the incidents not covered or reported happened after hours, weekends and evenings,” she added.

DBHDS says Cumberland did complete all required steps of the corrective action plan.

“The provider's corrective action was determined to be appropriate and it was accepted. However, if through future monitoring DBHDS finds this problem to repeat or be systemic, it could affect the status of the provider's license,”  McGuire said.

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