A state committee sent a strong warning to employees of state mental institutions: if you neglect or abuse patients, you could be fired on the spot without any chance to appeal.
The state finance, ways and means committee approved an amendment to a bill that would make workers at state mental institutions who care for patients "at will" employees, instead of their current status of civil service employees.
Sen. Doug Henry, D-Nashville, introduced the amendment following an ongoing Channel 4 I-Team investigation that revealed instances of patient mistreatment and neglect at the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute.
Our investigation also found nurses accused of serious mistakes allowed to keep their jobs and only given suspensions, including a nurse who dumped a bucket of water on a mentally ill patient's head, another nurse who was found with her hands on a patient's neck and shoulders and another nurse accused of letting a patient fondle her and admitted to kissing him.
The Channel 4 I-Team also found a case of a grisly suicide, where a patient took his own life because he wasn't being monitored.
Henry said what the I-Team uncovered is proof that the state must have greater powers to fire employees who neglect or mistreat patients.
"When you talk about helpless people, and folks who have direct charge of their person, it seems to me that if they don't do right, management should be able to dismiss them on the spot," Henry said during the committee hearing
Former contract employees told the Channel 4 I-Team it's well known in the institute that if you're a state civil service employee, it's hard to get fired.
"Civil service should not be in that type of facility, because in nursing care, the patient lives are too valuable," said Derwin Powell, a former contract nurse at the institute.
After Henry learned what the Channel 4 I-Team uncovered, he called the commissioner of mental health into his office.
Henry said the commissioner wanted to fire all the employees we exposed, but couldn't because of civil service rules protecting their employment.
So Henry drafted an amendment to the bill, aiming to revamp the state's civil service rules. That amendment would make all state employees providing patient care in institutions "at will" employees, who could be fired for a single violation of neglect or mistreatment of patients.
"If someone is mistreated, and they (the employee) are in direct control of that patient, I don't have a great deal of patience with them," said Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville.
Grant Lawrence, spokesman for the state department of mental health, said in a statement to the Channel 4 I-Team:
"The Tennessee Department of Mental Health supports the Administration's T.E.A.M. Act and recognizes it as an effort to recruit, retain and reward the best and brightest employees to serve Tennessee taxpayers in a customer-focused, efficient and effective way."
Henry's amendment passed and is now attached to the bill, calling for a revamp of the state's civil service rules.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Thursday, December 5 2013 4:48 PM EST2013-12-05 21:48:47 GMT
Ron Burgundy is keeping it classy in Connecticut.Actor Will Ferrell was in Milford on Thursday for an interview on the Dan Patrick Show.He's promoting his new movie, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.TheMore >
Ron Burgundy is keeping it classy in Connecticut.More >
Friday, November 8 2013 12:57 PM EST2013-11-08 17:57:21 GMT
A Lebanon father of three is accused of drugging one of his children in order to have sex with her young friend, according to court documents. Robert Chesters, 42, was arrested after having a relationshipMore >
ALebanonfather of three is accused of drugging one of his children in order to have sex with her young friend, according to court documents.More >
Thursday, December 5 2013 4:37 PM EST2013-12-05 21:37:48 GMT
(CNN) -Two million Facebook, G-mail and Twitter passwords were stolen as part of a massive computer hack. Researchers at cyber-security firm Trustwave say the data breach was the result of malware installedMore >
Two million Facebook, Gmail and Twitter passwords were stolen as part of a massive computer hack.More >
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
31 people are in trouble with the law after a three day prostitution sting in Richmond. Police told NBC12 they targeted specific areas where residents and business owners complained about the illegal activity.More >
Friday, December 6 2013 12:34 AM EST2013-12-06 05:34:32 GMT
Mandela called apartheid a "human tragedy" and spent 27 years in prison for speaking against the practice that was still in place nearly three decades after legal integration in the U.S.More >
Mandela called racist apartheid a "human tragedy" and spent 27 years in prison for speaking against the segregationist practice that was still in place nearly three decades after legal integration in the U.S.More >
Thursday, December 5 2013 3:55 PM EST2013-12-05 20:55:18 GMT
A report by the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association that was released Thursday details the response by Newtown police officers the day a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last DecemberMore >
A report by the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association that was released Thursday details the response by Newtown police officers the day a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Dec. 14.More >
Thursday, December 5 2013 12:54 PM EST2013-12-05 17:54:08 GMT
The Connecticut State Police barrack for Troop D, which is located in Danielson, will become a substation of Troop C in Tolland. According to the Department of Emergency Services and Public ProtectionMore >
The Connecticut State Police barrack for Troop D, which is located in Danielson, will become a substation of Troop C in Tolland.More >
Thursday, December 5 2013 3:08 PM EST2013-12-05 20:08:21 GMT
Numerous residents reported booming noises near Suillivan's Island, James Island and the Isle of Palms Wednesday evening.Officials from the South Carolina Earthquake Education and Preparedness ProgramMore >
Officials say the loud noises heard by many residents near Sullivan's Island, James Island and the Isle of Palms Wednesday evening were caused by sonic booms. More >