Hospital worker fired after abuse probe gets job back

A former Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital worker who was among those fired last year following an investigation into abuse of a patient is getting his job back.

George White is scheduled to return to work Feb. 16 after he completes training that gives more guidance about how to handle violent patients. White appealed his firing, saying he was wrongfully discharged. He and others argued that workers were following a doctor’s orders.

“I knew that what we were doing wasn’t a good idea, and that once an injury occurred they would try to cover their behinds,” White, who worked as a residential care aide at the hospital, told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Jennifer Eisner, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, tells the Kalamazoo Gazette that White’s dismissal was modified to a 20-day suspension. She said a second worker has been reinstated, but didn’t release details.

More arbitration hearings are expected for other employees, but dates haven’t been set, Eisner said.

An investigation found dozens of staff members either abused the patient or witnessed the abuse that led up to the man’s arm being broken in June 2014 as staff struggled to restrain him. Dozens of staff members were cited and several resigned or were fired. Officials have said one doctor received a five-day suspension and another resigned.

White, president of AFSCME 652, the union representing aides at the hospital, said an arbitrator who handled his case noted that a “systemic failure” led to White and other employees’ failure to use approved techniques when dealing with a violent patient.

“We’ve always been trained, but the training did not cover many of the situations we found ourselves in,” he said. “Patients biting, head butting and kicking, it didn’t cover those, but those were exactly the things we were encountering. We were left to our own devices.”

The hospital has been under scrutiny over safety since the 2014 death of a patient that was not properly reported to state authorities.  9AP)

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