5:44 PM, Jul 16, 2018
NEW BALTIMORE, Mich. (WXYZ) – In less than 30 days, three different allegations of abuse at Harbor Oaks Hospital have led to charges filed by Macomb County’s prosecutor.
The charges come at the same time officials with the State of Michigan give the hospital a clean bill of health.
For more than a year, 7 Action News has investigated claims by hospital nurses that the facility has insufficient staffing and training to keep patients—or themselves—safe from harm.
- RELATED: Michigan mental health patient charged with two sex assaults at Harbor Oaks
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- RELATED: Michigan mental hospital nurse pleads for help: “We can’t keep people safe”
- RELATED: Harbor Oaks inflated staffing levels when watchdogs visited, insiders claim
In May, the father of a 15-year-old autistic boy who cannot speak brought his son home after weeks of treatment. When he gave him a shower that night, he found what he called “claw marks” on his back, bruises and open flesh on his thighs.
“Something serious happened over there, we need to find out,” he said. “My son doesn’t have a voice.”
7 Action News is not naming the father, nor his son.
When he called Harbor Oaks to ask about the marks, bruises and open wounds, he says a nurse told him that they may have been caused by bed bugs.
“The way she was talking,” the father said,“ it seemed like she was just making things up.”
A family doctor later examined the young man and said the wounds were “more consistent with trauma.” A file was opened with Child Protective Services.
Even today, it is still unclear what caused those wounds or why Harbor Oaks failed to tell the young man’s father about them. The hospital says they’re investigating, according to the boy’s father.
But he wasn’t the only patient requiring medical attention that month.
Two days after he was discharged from Harbor Oaks, two other patients say they were assaulted inside Harbor Oaks.
“The first patient was punched,” said a staffer in her recorded call to New Baltimore police. “The second patient was body slammed.”
According to police records, both patients were punched in the face, while one was thrown to the ground, causing a seizure.
New Baltimore Police investigated, and this month, the patient responsible was charged with assault and battery and assault with intent to do great bodily harm by strangulation. He is awaiting trial.
But police would return to Harbor Oaks very soon. Only a few weeks later, they’d be back after a patient claimed he was the victim of a sexual assault.
On June 3, a 17-year-old patient at Harbor Oaks said before he went to bed, his roommate asked him to perform oral sex. The teen said no. Then, according to police records, the roommate put his hands down the victim’s pants, molesting him for ten minutes.
Mark Reinstein, President of the Mental Health Association in Michigan, has long advocated for state watchdogs to take action.
“The old saying, where there’s smoke, there’s fire?” he said. “There’s been an incredible amount of smoke coming out of this facility.”
In February, his and four other mental health organizations asked state officials to launch an investigation into Harbor Oaks. The state declined.
“I’ve been doing this work for 35 years; I know when bureaucrats don’t want to deal with something,” Reinstein said. “And that’s what we got.”
State officials with LARA say they’ve conducted inspections at Harbor Oaks as recently as May, finding the facility was “compliant with all federal laws,” adding that inspections like this “ensure that patients are protected.”
Three charges in less than 30 days, Reinstein says, suggests otherwise.
“How they can let this just go on is beyond me,” he said. “Is this going to finally help push the state to do something? Or will they continue to do nothing?”
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.
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