Deaths at Universal Health Services psych facility; lawsuit filed

September 2, 2013

State and federal inspectors have concluded staff failures were involved in three deaths that occurred within 1 1/2 years at facilities in the Arbour Health System, including at an Attleboro site.

The health care company, which operates seven inpatient psychiatric facilities and a series of mental health clinics in Massachusetts, including a psychiatric hospital on May Street in South Attleboro, has been repeatedly cited for violating patient-care standards before and after the deaths, The Boston Globe reported Sunday.

Citations have been issued for staffing too few nurses or relying too much on lesser-trained or temporary workers, among other violations.

The death at the Attleboro hospital involved Darcil Berry, 41, who in July 2010 was relocated there from a Freetown group home for people with developmental disabilities after she exhibited aggressiveness and was injuring herself.

Two weeks later, Berry was taken to Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, with head trauma and covered in bruises. She died Aug. 21, 2010 from "blunt-force injuries," The Globe reported.

A state panel determined Berry was abused after caregivers couldn't clearly explain her body injuries while under around-the-clock supervision.

The Disabled Persons Protection Commission said it found the hospital staff didn't adequately intervene to keep Berry from hurting herself, mentioning one of the patient's caregivers had been cited several times for falling asleep on the job.

Also, a state licensing administrator informed the hospital the staff's behavior could be construed as "dangerous, illegal or inhumane," The Globe said.

The dead woman's family in July filed a $1.3 million suit against Arbour-Fuller, accusing the hospital of "gross negligence" through inadequate staffing and other shortcomings. The suit contends a medical examiner concluded some of Berry's injuries could only have been caused by another person.

An attorney for Arbour told The Globe Berry was severely disabled and the staff went above and beyond to keep her from hurting herself, taking many steps short of restraining her 24 hours a day.

While advocates for the mentally ill cite their worries, the hospital says it continually tries to improve care and has taken action to address concerns of regulators.

And a state health official said the problems with Arbour are not unusual for facilities that deal with such difficult patients, The Globe added.

Source: "Suit filed against Attleboro psychiatric hospital," Sun Chronicle, September 2, 2013.


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