Lawsuit: 2 Wyoming mentally ill dead, proceedings skipped

By MEAD GRUVER
Associated press

CHEYENNE, Wyoming (AP) — Two patients at Wyoming State Hospital died after mental health facility staff failed to follow procedures in a series of incidents of choking, neglect and medication error in the last four months, according to a lawsuit.

Protection & Advocacy System Inc. filed a lawsuit against the Wyoming Department of Health and state hospital directors last week in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. He seeks to force the department to release video recordings from inside the hospital following recent patient suicides, a rape by a staff member and the abandonment of an unfit woman in a ward without food, water or bathing for more than 24 hours. The woman, Linda Gelok, was found reeking with urine and with ants crawling on wounds.

Protection & Advocacy System Inc., based in Cheyenne, is a private, nonprofit corporation mandated by law to investigate abuse and neglect of people with mental and developmental disabilities. He has filed several lawsuits against Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston over the past three decades.

“We believe we have no choice but to do so because we are gravely concerned for the life, health and safety of patients at Wyoming State Hospital,” the attorney for the protection and defense system Andy Lemke via email on Monday.

Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti declined to comment Monday on the latest trial or hospital conditions.

The Ministry of Health stopped giving video recordings requested by the protection and advocacy system from October. Hospital director Paul Mullenax told Protection & Advocacy System that the hospital is considering whether to register unwitting patients under Medicaid and Medicare regulations, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Without access to video, Protection & Advocacy System would have to rely on “inconsistent” and “vague” incident reports, “inaccurate and misleading” sighting logs, and inaccurate witness statements when investigating patient treatment, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, a patient with missing teeth and no dentures died of suffocation on July 22 after eating large chunks of meat and bread. The video showed that hospital staff failed to follow through on a soft food order only after the patient had previously swallowed a hamburger whole and choked, according to the lawsuit.

Less than a week earlier, hospital staff had found a patient dead, stiff and cold in his room. The vomit was on the floor.

Hospital staff that morning noted during required security checks every 15 minutes that the patient was “calm” and “at rest” with “eyes closed”. The video, however, showed employees only peeking into patient rooms and recording a check on the patient that apparently never happened, according to the lawsuit.

The video showed the patient coughing during breakfast, another detail missing from written hospital records, according to the lawsuit.

Other recent incidents documented by video include a patient suffering from slurred speech and weakness shortly after a head injury on Friday, but not taken to the emergency room until Monday; a patient who nearly choked on food; and a patient who took another patient’s medication.

Since October, the department has not given video to the protection and defense system of another patient who nearly choked to death, patients swapping medications with each other, and a patient taken to the emergency room after his death. being suffocated with drugs, according to the lawsuit, which did not name the patients.

Earlier this year, Protection & Advocacy System alleged in a lawsuit against Mullenax and health department director Stefan Johansson that hospital officials were preventing the organization’s access to patients. The case is pending.

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Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

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