|Petah Tikva Mental Health Institute|
Table of Contents
- Police detain staff over abuse at mental hospital (10/31/2012)
- Israel Police arrest 70 mental hospital employees suspected of abusing patients
- State to shut down psychiatric hospital over suspicions of patient abuse, cover-up (11/01/2012)
Israel Police arrest 70 mental hospital employees suspected of abusing patients
By Talila Nesher, Yaniv Kubovich and Dan Even
Haaretz - October 31, 2012
Accusations include assaulting helpless inmates, sex offenses and failure to report cases; former workers say management knew.
|Petah Tikva Mental Health Institute|
Last night 13 employees of the private hospital were brought before a judge for a detention hearing. One, an orderly, is suspected of sexual assault. The remaining 12, including two of the facility's owners, three nurses and seven other orderlies, are suspected of neglecting, assaulting or abusing vulnerable persons.
Police said the arrests came after a year-long undercover probe that began after Health Ministry officials reported that some of the patients had been admitted to general hospitals with severe injuries typical of assault. Additional information came from former Neveh Ya'akov hospital employees. In October 2011 police investigated a former employee's complaints of sexual harassment. Police officials say the Health Ministry was informed of this investigation.
The ministry weighed closing the hospital six months ago in the wake of claims of abuse by staff members, but decided to allow it to remain open with more frequent visits by inspectors and a recovery plan put in place. Two weeks ago, after another complaint alleging violence was filed, following consultations between Health Ministry director-general Dr. Roni Gamzu and police, dozens of members of the hospital's staff were summoned for police questioning.
Ministry officials said they heard of the abuse complaints in April, after which it was decided to step up supervision but not close the hospital. Officials said ministry inspectors made 20 visits to the facility in the past year.
Despite the latest arrests, Neveh Ya'akov remains open now. Psychiatrists from other mental hospitals have been brought in temporarily until a decision is made on the institution's future.
The ministry says the first complaints came to the district psychiatrist in the form of two unsigned written complaints, purportedly from two female patients alleging that hospital employees had assaulted them sexually. As a result of the police investigation that followed, one of the employees was suspended for 10 days, but not until Wednesday were other staff members detained for police questioning.
At around the same time as the investigation got underway, Bizchut - The Israel Human Rights Center for People With Disabilities, demanded from the ministers of health and of social affairs the immediate transfer of all patients from Neveh Ya'akov, and the appointment of a commission of inquiry to investigate alleged human rights abuses at the hospital. The demands were based on the results of two surprise visits conducted by Bizchut in 2011. The first visit included MK Ilan Gilon, and the second by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and the ministry's director of mental health services, Dr. Gadi Lubin.
Representatives of Bizchut said Wednesday, in response to the latest developments, that the Health Ministry did not act for months despite knowing about the complaints. They called on the state to act on "what the West has known for a long time, that the institutions must be shut and the sick system changed."
A senior Health Ministry official said Wednesday: "The ministry turned to the police as soon as there was evidence and continued to monitor the institution closely."
Lubin said it must be remembered that the overwhelming majority of the abuse complaints at Neveh Ya'akov were anonymous. "While it's very easy to file an anonymous complaint, it is difficult for an official government establishment to draw conclusions based on such complaints," he said. "We conducted frequent visits and saw an improvement in the institution, including in the behavior of the staff, in renovations to the residential facilities and in more varied activities for the clients. But despite the improvement, when there were concrete complaints they were thoroughly addressed, and when we reached the conclusion that there was a concrete suspicion of illegal actions we went to the police," Lubin said.
The Health Ministry said Wednesday in a statement that the district psychiatrists, psychiatrists from other hospitals, supervisory teams, health aides, social workers, vocational therapists and orderlies have been brought in to replace Neveh Ya'akov's regular staff while the police continue their investigation. The statement noted that the ministry has assumed responsibility for the hospital, with the aim of protecting the patients and their rights. In addition, the statement said, since Wednesday morning ministry officials have been briefing the patients' families on the developments.
Neveh Ya'akov is one of four private psychiatric hospitals in Israel that care for people with mental illness who are judged incapable of being integrated into the community. Of Neveh Ya'akov's 155 patients, 115 are considered incapable of community integration; the remainder have severe mental retardation.
State to shut down psychiatric hospital over suspicions of patient abuse, cover-up