Florida whistleblowers file suit against Universal Health Services psychiatric facility
April 12, 2013
A whistleblowers' lawsuit filed Thursday and state investigations against the National Deaf Academy in Mount Dora allege that deaf and psychiatric patients at its residential treatment center have suffered serious abuse and neglect and that some incidents haven't been reported to authorities.
Records show a history of repeated violations and fines and past cases involving death and injuries, which led to fines and potential revocation of its state license. In the suit, two former employees say the abuse and neglect goes beyond what state officials have investigated because managers are covering up incidents.
The suit describes abuse including patients being punched, choked, pinned against walls and injured during forcible takedowns. One patient had injured a leg and was denied a wheelchair, forcing her to sit in her own urine and crawl on the floor, the lawsuit says. Also, patient rooms were dirty, infested with cockroaches and rotting food, according to the suit filed by Kyle Gilrain, a licensed clinical social worker, and Carol Savage, a licensed mental-health counselor.
"I want these companies to be held accountable for the violations that have occurred in their facility and I want them to finally take these complaints seriously so that the children and disabled adults in that facility can have a safe, healthy environment to live in," Gilrain said.
Savage added: "My first priority is and always has been the welfare of the children and disabled people" at the deaf academy."
Its parent company, Universal Health Services, released a statement saying the deaf academy “takes the safety and well-being of its patients and employees very seriously. There has been erroneous information circulating about the facility, regarding allegations of abuse and neglect. These allegations are unfounded and have been unsubstantiated by the state regulatory agencies.…”
Universal Health Services is a Fortune 500 company based in King of Prussia, Pa., that operates more than 100 acute care, behavioral health and ambulatory facilities.
Problems have come to the attention of the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which has cited the center for 95 violations this year including complaints in March that a resident was reportedly kicked in the mouth and another resident allegedly suffered an elbow injury during a disciplinary take-down. In separate litigation, a former patient is suing the center, saying a staff takedown caused her leg to twist backward, later forcing doctors to amputate the leg.
The 132-bed residential facility on U.S. Highway 441 spans more than 20 acres with seven buildings. The residential center houses patients from 6 to 64 who are not only deaf or hard of hearing but also require care for a range of psychiatric and behavioral problems. There is also a charter school on site.
Opened in 2000, the academy has had a history of complaints and abuse allegations, according to public records.
During a 17-month period from January 2008 to May 2009, Mount Dora police were swamped with 369 calls about fights between patients and staff, suicide attempts and residents who went missing. The police calls decreased after new management took over in April 2009, but the facility has been cited tfor dozens of violations since then.
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