NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. -- A North Carolina mom is calling for more transparency after learning the New Kent children’s hospital where her daughter was undergoing treatment was at the center of multiple investigations.
“I'm absolutely livid that Cumberland was even on the list of recommendations for my daughter,” Ashley Stewart said.
Stewart’s daughter Hayden was referred to the Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents from a North Carolina facility for her eating disorder.
Hayden was admitted May 6, 2021, but two weeks into her planned six-month stay, Stewart traveled back to Virginia to discharge her daughter.
“I was in tears. I was beside myself,” said Stewart. "She deteriorated so quickly. She looked worse than she did when I dropped her off. Her eyes were sunken in, she was skinny again."
Hayden’s medical records documented her “concerning” weight loss, but Stewart said it was the concerning phone calls she received that led her back to the facility prematurely.
“A week into Hayden's treatment, my daughter called Friday night, and absolutely in tears, ‘mom, this place was like, jail,'” explained Stewart.
Hayden’s behavior is described in her medical notes as “disruptive” and “disrespectful.” Also documented, is how “she continues to present with brightly colored blue hair and oversized clothes with multiple accessories.”
“I don't understand how her look interferes with her treatment,” said Stewart. “I don't think religion and science should ever cross.”
Stewart said her daughter felt emotionally abused at the facility.
“The humiliation, the manipulation of ‘Hey, Hayden, um, you know, thanks for not drinking your milk now there's gonna be no more milk for other kids. Or I guess y'all don't want the diabetic kids to, you know, die because y'all won't eat your food on time,’” recalled Stewart.
Steward started making plans to end her daughter’s care on May 15, after how she said she was transferred to another unit.
According to her medical record, the move led to a “placement of hands on patient” that was thus “considered a restraint.”
Stewart recorded how Hayden described it.
“They grabbed my arms and one person behind me got me and did the move of a wedgie so I could be restrained, and I felt my shorts ripping,” explained Hayden to her mother. “They wouldn’t let go. I was literally crying.”
But it was a documented physical contact involving another patient that happened inside the hospital five months earlier, and an allegation that was reported to deputies a month later that has Stewart most upset.
“I just feel so betrayed and just so I'm furious and I don't understand why this place has children in there,” Stewart said. “I’m actually terrified. It’s terrifying.”
That’s the most serious deficiency issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“Immediate Jeopardy is a situation where we've identified that the potential exists for harm and so there's a sense of immediacy that needs to be removed,” said Virginia Department of Health (VHD) Director of Office of Licensure & Certification Kimberly Beazley.
According to CMS, noncompliance places the health and safety of patients at risk for serious injury, harm, impairment, or death.
Inspectors made the finding, after multiple incidents.
On October 31, 2020, and again on November 01, 2020, the report states that patients accessed an unlocked medication cart and were crushing and “snorting” some of the medication.
Then, on December 01, 2020, it was substantiated that a staff member “grabbed” a patient by the arms and “shoved” the patient into a chair, and yelled at the patient.
According to the survey, the patient admitted to “playfully” pushing the staff member before the staff member pushed the patient for not putting the patient's breathing treatment equipment away properly.
The staff member was suspended immediately and then terminated.
Cumberland remained in Immediate Jeopardy after failure to present an acceptable plan of removal on December 9.
CMS pointed out, “The facility has experienced multiple complaints of allegations of abuse by employees to patients in the previous months which demonstrated a systematic failure by the facility to implement a sustainable plan in order to prevent the recurrent allegations of abuse.”
The Immediate Jeopardy was abated on December 28, but the deficiencies were not cleared until April.
As CBS 6 has been reporting since last February, the hospital has been under criminal investigation by the Virginia State Police for child abuse and neglect since October 17, 2017. VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller says, “The investigation remains ongoing.”
The Attorney General’s Office has asked anyone with allegations against Cumberland to contact the Virginia State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations at 804-537-6788.
“Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents addressed the survey findings raised by CMS in a satisfactory fashion. We are in full compliance with all requirements with our state licensing agencies,” said Cumberland Hospital CEO Garrett Hamilton.
“Cumberland maintains consistent and open communication with all regulatory agencies, and we look forward to continued collaboration as we work hard to deliver compassionate care to the individuals we are privileged to serve,” Hamilton added.
“I feel like parents should have that information should be disclosed to parents, when we're making choices for our children to stay alive at this point, for their best help," said Stewart. "If I would have had this information disclosed to me, I would have chosen a different route completely."
“If it's a serious enough offense, to where they're being given an Immediate Jeopardy, should parents still be given the option to send their kids to Cumberland Hospital?” CBS 6 Problem Solver Laura French asked the VDH.
“It's not something that's isolated, just to Cumberland and so, no, we do not we, you know, as an office or an agency do not share that information to referring hospitals,” answered Beazley. “Obviously, the information, the survey reports are available, as always through an FOIA request.”
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the CBS 6 Problem Solvers obtained a New Kent County Sheriff’s Office incident report dated June 03, 2021, that details a call for “disorderly conduct.”
When deputies arrived, the report states that several staff members were holding the door to the dayroom shut and the teenaged boy was locked inside. Deputies noted he had “a large piece of wood” and he was using it to destroy the dayroom.
The teen reported to deputies that he “exploded” after he claimed he wasn’t being properly medicated and that a nurse threatened to “hit him over the head with a walkie-talkie if he approached her with the phone cord.”
According to the report, the teen explained he had the cord in his hand after he tripped on the phone and broke it, missing the call he was supposed to have with his mother.
Cumberland Hospital, which just expanded its juvenile psychiatric care unit in April, requested that the child be transported to another mental health facility, according to the report. When New Kent refused the transport because he was already in a psychiatric facility the report states “the supervisor clearly wasn’t satisfied.”
The CBS 6 Problem Solvers reached out to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) about the incident.
“DBHDS was not made aware of this incident and is in the process of reviewing it to determine if further action is warranted,” said DBHDS spokesperson Lauren Cunningham.
“Regarding the two patient situations, due to HIPAA patient privacy laws, we are unable to comment on patients or their care. However, we promptly reported the incidents, consistent with regulations. Further, both situations were thoroughly investigated. Our facility continues to be staffed to serve the needs of our patients.” said Hamilton.
“These are parents that have seen these reports, some of which have been substantiated. From their perspective, nothing's being done about it,” French stated to VDH.
“Our office has spent a significant amount of time investigating complaints, conducting surveys at the facility, conducting state licensure inspections. We've spent a significant amount of time in the facility conducting on-site observations daily,” said Beazley. “We certainly take all of these seriously. We investigate to the fullest extent possible, and the hospital has cleared this last particular survey [in December] the report you're referring to, they have cleared everything, and they are in full compliance at this time.”
”I just feel like right now that our children are just being looked at as a dollar sign. I feel like Hayden was just there for money, and it didn't matter,” said Stewart. “I would say it has to start at the top and the whole structure, the whole culture needs to change before these places should even be opened again. They really need to be shut down. The culture needs to be changed, everybody needs to be re-staffed and we have to remember these are children. This is not just money.”
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the CBS 6 Problem Solvers requested all inspections/investigations the VDH has conducted from September 01, 2020, to the present at the Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents.
The following reports were returned: