Former Cumberland Hospital for Children employee to state regulators: 'Do your job!'

Posted at 10:37 AM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 18:50:42-05

NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. — A former Cumberland Hospital employee named in a state investigation involving an “irate child" said she was misrepresented in the report that led to a citation against the hospital.

“I was livid when I found out about the report because I believe the way they put staff member #1 in there, it's entirely scapegoating,” the former behavior technician said.

CBS 6 Problem Solvers Investigation first reported in June, led to another probe at the New Kent hospital under criminal investigation by the Virginia State Police.

The Department of Behavioral Health and Human Services (DBHDS) determined that compliance with human rights regulations was not met inside the Cumberland Children’s Hospital on the evening of June 3, when it came to the seclusion of a teen patient.

“If a hospital is calling 911 to handle the behaviors of patients that should be a huge red flag,” the former behavior technician said.

That emergency call, investigators said, came from inside the New Kent facility on the night of June 3, after the former behavior technician and others were threatened by a teenage patient with “a large piece of wood.”

“I still remember the individual holding it like about three inches away from my neck and screaming at me as we're trying to de-escalate the situation,” the former behavior tech said. “The police wouldn't even go inside the same room as this individual without a taser and a riot shield and backup.”

The former employee, who is now enrolled in the Johns Hopkins Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, said staffing was part of the problem on the night of the “disorderly conduct” call when she was working as a BT.

“A code was called to deal with a patient that was becoming out of control. There was not a huge response, because we were so short-staffed and from responding to the code, the situation just continued to escalate, unfortunately,” she said.

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 police 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.

The state ultimately found that Cumberland failed to follow its seclusion policy when the patient was prevented from leaving a room and was given the perception that it was locked. According to the police report he was locked in the day room by several staff members who were holding the door shut including the BT.

“I did what my supervisor asked me to do. When the police arrived before they engaged with the patient, they asked me to do it as well,” said the former BT.

The former BT, who is referred to as ‘Staff #1’ was interviewed by the state.

“What I said fully was that I would have held the door, if necessary because my supervisor and the police told me to do so.”

But the part about who allegedly instructed her to hold the door never made it into ‘Staff #1’s’ statements on the matter.

“The way the report is written, one of the things that frustrates me most is that it ends by saying staff member #1 resigned before they could receive training. Well, I didn't leave because of this incident, but that's how it reads. I left to go to graduate school. It also says staff member was written up. I have never been written up a day in my life.”

CBS 6 reached out to Cumberland and DBHDS with the former employee’s concerns.

“The former employee referenced in the report left our organization to pursue another opportunity,” Cumberland CEO Garrett Hamilton said. “We cannot offer additional comment on employment matters.”

“The information about staff #1 receiving a formal corrective action and resigning was provided by Cumberland Hospital in their response to the citation,” said DBHDS spokesperson Lauren Cunningham. “It is customary to include the provider's proposed actions to correct the cited deficiency in the licensing report. At the time of the review, DBHDS did receive a copy of the staff member’s resignation letter, as well as a training log documenting that all other staff received training on the facility’s seclusion and restraint policy. DBHDS did not request, or receive, documentation of disciplinary action against staff #1.”

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What the former employee said she did receive was plenty of written praise in her year and a half at the hospital. CBS 6 was provided recommendation letters on the former BT’s behalf.

The letters expressed that she was a “wonderful asset to Cumberland” and a “team player.”

Words like “honesty,” “integrity, ” and “dependability were used to describe her.

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The former employee did some writing of her own during her tenure at the hospital.

Emails provided to CBS 6 show that she’d been raising safety concerns to Cumberland’s CEO, other staff members, and the hospital’s parent company Universal Health Services (UHS) since last year.

“In my opinion, Cumberland is choosing to be reactive as opposed to proactive,” the former employee reads from a September 13, 2020 email she sent to a Cumberland Registered Nurse and Unit Coordinator. “I feel as though Cumberland is waiting for something very serious, or potentially irreversible to occur.”

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She said her concerns of a June 3, 2021, type event or worse started last year when she started warning her supervisors of issues, up until before and after the incident.

“Me and a co-worker were the only two employees responding to codes throughout the hospital,” she reads from a June 20, 2021 email she sent to Cumberland’s CEO and UHS’ Director of Risk Management. “A patient or staff member is going to be critically injured if this situation continues. “

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“What would your message to Cumberland be?” Problem Solver Laura French asked.

“Change, I would say that wholeheartedly. The mission of Cumberland Hospital is a beautiful mission to treat people that both have physical ailments and mental health diagnoses, that is so necessary and so needed, and you can see that as patients are coming in from states that don't have the capacity to treat them it is so critical the mission is and they are failing in that mission and it's unacceptable.”

"What would your message be to state regulators?" French asked.

”Be thorough, like honestly, I laugh because I want to say do your job! Because my thing is, you are a regulatory body. You set the standards, you show us what's acceptable and unacceptable by how you deliver consequences. There has to be consequences for failing the patients. There has to be someone somewhere doing something to help these individuals that are supposed to be getting care in this hospital and what they're really getting is more trauma.”

“This citation was the result of an Office of Human Rights (OHR) review of the provider investigation. The OHR review consisted of interviews with the New Kent County Deputy, the involved individual, the individual's Authorized Representative, and the involved staff, as well as reviews of the New Kent County Sheriff's incident report, video footage from the incident, the providers seclusion/restraint policy and witness statements. All of this information was summarized and documented on the citation report as evidence of Cumberland Hospital's noncompliance with the Human Rights Regulations,” said Cunningham. “Licensed providers have the opportunity to dispute the facts and findings of a citation report; however, Cumberland Hospital did not dispute this citation,” she added.

As CBS 6 has been reporting since February 2020, the hospital has been under criminal investigation by the Virginia State Police for child abuse and neglect since October 17, 2017.

Since then, two employees have been criminally indicted.

A former psychotherapist died by suicide on the day he was expected to plead guilty to a sex crime and a former behavior tech is awaiting sentencing on a felony wounding conviction for intentionally burning a disabled child.