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Staffing Shortages to Blame for Sexual Assaults and Other Chicago Hospital Negligence

Personal injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have extensive experience handling sexual abuse cases and other acts of negligence committed against assisted-living patients. Over the years, we’ve received numerous reports of abuse and neglect that our most vulnerable community residents have suffered. Nursing shortages and poor supervision are often to blame, and these deficiencies are likely responsible for a series of sexual attacks against youths at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital. The Department of Children and Family Services is now reporting that four recent sexual assaults could have been prevented simply by putting more nurses on duty.

The sexual abuse study, first reported in the Chicago Tribune, was done by experts from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Their research revealed that a single staff member at Chicago Lakeshore was often responsible for dealing with more than 20 psychiatric patients at a time. This staffing failure led to alarming acts of sexual abuse, including the rape of an 11-year-old boy in a bathroom that should have been locked and supervised by hospital employees.

In another tragic sexual assault case, three boys snuck into a 15-year-old girl’s room overnight and raped her. We find it appalling that inadequate supervision by hospital employees further victimized these young patients who were already suffering from mental health problems.

Inadequate supervision is not limited to Chicago Lakeshore, as other Chicago psychiatric facilities have reported over 18 cases of rape or sexual assault within the past three years. Other, less serious problems include medication errors and ineffective treatment plans. The latest study suggests that inadequate resources are to blame for all of this mistreatment.

It is disturbing that we, as taxpayers, pay millions of dollars a year for Illinois psychiatric hospitals to care for our youths, and serious acts of abuse and neglect keep happening. Authorities have stepped up inspections, but patient safety will continue to be compromised until patients are adequately supervised by staff. Children should not be left vulnerable to sexual predators because hospital employees are stretched too thin. At Riveredge Hospital in Chicago, hospital staffers actually witnessed one teenage patient committing a sexual assault against another, but took care of four other patients before finally notifying a supervisor. State officials need to take aggressive action against these troubled facilities, or the health and safety of young patients will continue to be at risk.

Inadequate hospital staffing is not only responsible for sexual abuse in Illinois, but for sexual assaults nationwide. In addition to Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, Signature Health Care Services operates six other hospitals around the country. Four of these hospitals are in California, where similar abuse has reportedly occurred. In one particularly disturbing case, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped while hospital staffers slept.

Poor patient oversight routinely results in poor patient care and creates a dangerous environment for all hospital patients, no matter where it occurs. Many traumatic abuse cases are not even reported to authorities because financially-burdened hospitals do not have proper procedures in place, leaving sexual predators free to continue abusing patients. Hospitals owe a duty of care to their patients, and this duty is not being met. It is clear from recent studies that supervision failures lead directly to sexual abuse injuring the young and vulnerable patients.