A New Baltimore psychiatric hospital facing claims of understaffing and rampant patient and staff abuse inflated staffing levels when hospital watchdogs visited, according to current and former employees.
The allegations are just the latest in a string of revelations calling into question the safety of those inside Harbor Oaks Hospital.
“I shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to work every day,” said Charmaine Allagreen, a current nurse at the New Baltimore facility.
Allagreen says the hospital increased staffing levels in anticipation of an audit by the Joint Commission, an organization that accredits more than 21,000 hospitals throughout the country. Joint Commission accreditation is coveted by hospitals, acting as a seal of approval for prospective patients.
“It’s a front,” Allagreen said. “It has nothing to do with whether they care for their patients. They say they provide great care for their patients.”
A separate complaint filed with the State of Michigan back up her claim. Linna Sikon, then a nurse with Harbor Oaks, notified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, in April that Harbor Oaks cut staffing by “nearly half” right after it passed its Joint Commission survey.
“It was immediately after (the commission) left that the staffing was cut,” Sikon said.
Months later, she said, she was forced to resign. Sikon has filed a wrongful termination suit against Harbor Oaks.
In response to these accounts, a spokeswoman for the Joint Commission tells us that staff “will evaluate” the allegations made and if substantiated, they could deny Harbor Oaks accreditation.
As 7 Action News has reported, Allagreen says that staffing inside the hospital routinely puts staff and patients at risk, especially vulnerable or abusive patients that require closer monitoring known as one-to-one supervision.
Harbor Oaks’ adult unit holds 32 patients and, on a day earlier this year, it included three patients requiring one-to-one supervision.
“We should have had at least 8 staff for the acuity of the unit,” Allagreen said.
“And how many did you have?” asked Channel 7’s Ross Jones.
“Three,” she replied.
Citing pending litigation, Harbor Oaks declined an on-camera interview. Through a spokesperson, the hospital released the following statement:
“The dignity, safety and security of patients, staff, and visitors is the top priority of Harbor Oaks Hospital.
“We take any and all concerns with a deep sense of care, thorough investigation, and resolution; including coordination with appropriate regulators and agencies.
“Unfortunately, state and federal laws and patient privacy prevent us from discussing or providing any information on patient’s treatment protocols or any alleged incidents that may or may not have occurred.
“We also continuously review our protocols and safety measures to ensure that we are providing the best care in the safest environment possible. We have invested over the years in additional people, technology, and facilities to create a healing environment that has made us a leader in the region for the services that we provide.
“We are continuing that commitment with plans for a new, $35 million hospital to continue our service to the community.”