DETROIT (WXYZ) — Staff inside a major Detroit psychiatric hospital say management has been lax in its response to the COVID-19 outbreak gripping the city, putting employees and patients at risk of contracting the virus.
The employees say the hospital was slow to enact social distancing, failed to supply needed protective gear and exposed at least one infected employee to patients and staff.
The 162-bed StoneCrest Center on Gratiot in Detroit has been the subject of multiple 7 Action News investigations exposing patients who unexpectedly died within hours of being released.
Now, three hospital current hospital employees are coming forward to blow the whistle on behavior that they say has put everyone inside the hospital at risk. The employees asked that they not be named, citing fear of retribution.
At least five StoneCrest employees have already tested positive for COVID-19, according to staff.
“In my opinion,” said one employee, “it’s very likely that cases of COVID are within the patient population and still within the employee population.”
One possible reason for the virus’s spread, they say, is hospital management asking that some employees who showed symptoms for COVID-19 return to work while their test results were pending.
In one case, a staff member did return to work only to then learn that she tested positive for the virus.
“Now these people have been exposed, patients have been exposed to staff,” said one employee. “And it’s completely unfair. I don’t believe they have a game plan for keeping us safe as well as the patient’s safe.”
Staff are also troubled that patients at StoneCrest are still living with roommates. Since the outbreak began, employees say the hospital still operates near its 162-bed capacity.
At the same time state health officials were urging people not to gather in groups, staff say group therapy inside the hospital continued as normal.
“Group therapy was being done in a medium-sized room with upwards of 15 patients and a group therapy facilitator,” said a third StoneCrest employee. “Social distancing was not being practiced in that group. Patients were sitting at a table, right next to each
It wasn’t until this week, according to insiders, that group therapy sizes were made smaller and social distancing was put into practice. Still, staff say they continue to work in close contact with patients, but don’t have all the personal protection equipment they need like N95 or surgical masks. Only cloth masks are being used today, staff say.
“You’re putting profit over your personnel, you’re putting profit over your patients. And that’s really what the environment, that’s what we feel."
Wednesday afternoon, StoneCrest Center CEO Steve Savage released the following statement:
StoneCrest Center is very proud of our front-line health care workers, in meeting the need for behavioral health care services, during this unprecedented crisis. As always, the safety, health and well-being of our patients and employees are our top priorities.
We have had employees test positive for COVID-19. Several other employees have opted for testing and we are waiting to receive test results.
Any patient who develops symptoms is moved to a designated unit where the patient is cared for by a dedicated staff equipped with appropriate PPE. Each symptomatic patient is in a single room. We also have additional medical clinicians to support our patients who develop symptoms.
StoneCrest is continuing to work closely with public health officials and following the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients and staff. StoneCrest has implemented the following steps as part of our infectious disease protocols:
- During our patient admission process, we are assessing for any symptoms during the screening, obtaining recent travel history, and informing candidates of possible delays in admission if they display any signs and symptoms of COVID-19. We are also asking candidates if they are aware if they have been exposed to the virus.
- Employees and patients are having their temperature taken. Each employee, prior to their shift, day or night, is having his/her temperature taken and our patients are having theirs taken every 12 hours. Employees who feel sick or exhibit flu-like symptoms are asked to stay home or are sent home if at work.
- We have suspended all visitation to our hospital. Our patients are being given additional phone time to connect with loved ones.
- Social distancing has been and continues to be practiced and we have been conducting smaller groups for therapy in-line with CDC guidance. We are utilizing larger rooms for group therapy to accommodate social distancing practices.
- Employees are continuously educated on cleaning procedures after leaving areas, handwashing, refraining from coming to work if they feel sick, and understanding the signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
- Educating our current patients and encouraging them to frequently wash their hands as per CDC mandates and informing them of the proper methods of sneezing and coughing to avoid the spread of any infection.
- We will continue to implement the CDC’s recommendations regarding COVID-19 protections, including the proper use of PPE. As you are seeing in the news, PPE is in short supply. We are pursuing all channels to secure necessary supplies.
We will continue to assess our infection control and prevention procedures, to ensure that they are effective and consistent with the best practices, as established by local health officials as well as the CDC and WHO.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.