USA

A damning video for a Brooklyn hospital

This CCTV video, taken in the psychiatric ward of a Brooklyn hospital on 19 June, has caused outrage in the US. The footage shows a woman collapsed on the floor while staff choose to ignore her. When help is finally called after an hour, the woman is already dead. Read more.

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This CCTV video, taken in the psychiatric ward of a Brooklyn hospital on 19 June, has caused outrage in the US. The footage shows a woman collapsed on the floor while staff apparently choose to ignore her. When help is finally called after an hour, the woman is already dead.

Jamaican-born Esmin Elizabeth Green was admitted to Kings County Hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown. The 49-year-old social worker was administered tranquilizers and had been sitting in the waiting room for 24 hours when she fell to the ground at 5:30 am. None of the patients nearby reacted. A security guard approached her, but then walked away. Almost an hour later, medical personnel came to her assistance. But they were too late.

The medical report that logged Green's death shows that staff reported that she was "sitting quietly in [the] waiting room" until 6:20 am when they noticed she had passed away and immediately tried to help her. Unfortunately for them, the CCTV footage proves quite the opposite. The video was released by the New York Civil Liberty Union, who had filed a case against the hospital for filthy conditions and the abuse of sedatives about a year earlier. The lawsuit would likely have been left at the bottom of a pile, but might be taken more seriously now.

 

You have to remember that mental health hospital staff often lose their sense of humanity

Maryvonne Wetsch is a psychiatrist at the Esquirol de Saint-Maurice hospital (southwest of Paris).

The first thing that shocked me watching this video was that there are no medical staff present. It looks as though the hospital relies on security guards and surveillance cameras to watch over the waiting room. That wouldn't be possible in France. Security guards don't even exist; there are only medical personnel and caretakers.

You can't substitute dialogue with sedatives and guards. We have a tendency to do that in France too - when we're lacking in staff we often resort to relaxants. In the unit where I work there were three people minding 22 patients ten years ago, whereas now there are only two. This is primarily because it's hard to recruit people into psychiatric work - it's a very hard job. But also because of strict working laws in France that keep maximum working hours at 35 per week.

At the end of the day it's the hospital managers' responsibility to avoid the kind of thing that happened in this video. You have to remember that mental health hospital staff often lose their sense of humanity at work. It's the same thing in a police station or a detention centre. It makes me think of the colonisation mentality: if those in power no longer see the weak like their fellow human beings; if they think they're never going to equal them, then things can go off the rails.

"The people who worked there didn’t seem to care about anything"

Phil is a psychiatrist in New York. While he was studying medicine he worked in the Brooklyn hospital where Green died. He wants to remain anonymous.

I have worked at a number of hospitals, but the conditions at that particular one were different and even shocking. While many hospitals treat indigent patients, this one treats almost exclusively poor people who have no influence. So the conditions at the hospital are terrible: the building is from another era. When I was there ward consisted of up to 16 patients in a single large room; patients wait many, many hours for attention. Support staff are city employees and there is an atmosphere of indifference. No person of means would go there. I remember feeling that the only solution would be for that hospital to be torn down and a modern one built in its place".

CCTV footage taken at 5.32 at Kings County Hospital