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NYC Agrees to Fix Troubled Kings County Hospital Center

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 12, 2010

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation has entered into a consent agreement with federal authorities to clean up the troubled psychiatric emergency department and psychiatric in-patient units in its Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn.

A federal investigation at KCHC that began 13 months ago reportedly uncovered systemic violations of civil rights laws protecting institutionalized people. According to the Department of Justice, the violations included:

  • Failure to protect patients from harm

  • Failure to treat psychiatric disabilities of patients

  • The use of drugs to sedate rather than treat patients

  • Failure to provide adequate and individualized discharge planning and follow-up services

  • Falsification of patient medical records

  • Failure to respond promptly to medical emergencies

Federal investigators said these violations and others contributed to the June 2008 death of Esmin Green, who collapsed in the psychiatric ED after waiting 23 hours to see a doctor. Green lay on the floor for more than one hour while hospital employees, including doctors and security staff, walked through the area, ignoring her condition, and made no effort to attend to her.

New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation President Alan D. Aviles said the health system has acknowledged problems at the hospital and wants to "begin implementing reforms that go beyond merely correcting deficient conditions alleged in the original lawsuit."

"All the parties have contributed to the creation of a comprehensive plan to fundamentally overhaul the psychiatric program at Kings County Hospital to create a true model of safe, compassionate, patient-centered behavioral health services that others in the city and the country will want to replicate," Aviles said in a media release.

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