State employees fired, disciplined after patient's death - WSMV Channel 4

State employees fired, disciplined after patient's death

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Three state employees and six others have been disciplined following the death of a patient at the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute.

The Channel 4 I-Team first uncovered the death of patient Cody Skelton in February, and filed open records requests with the state to determine if any action was taken as a result of his death.

The state produced those records this week, and they show three employees were fired and six additional employees were given written warnings.

The records also contain disciplinary actions that show Skelton was left alone for two hours, even though nurses and psychiatric techs were supposed to check on him ever fifteen minutes.

Skelton died on Nov. 28, 2011, when he drowned himself inside the institute. He was left alone between 9 and 11 that night.

The Channel 4 I-Team shared the disciplinary reports with Skelton's family.

"We would not have let him stay in that hospital if he was going to be alone. We would have found some way to get him out of that hospital," said Milton Skelton, Skelton's brother.

The state wrote in all the employees files, "Had you done the fifteen minute checks there may have been a different outcome for the patient that lost his life that night."

The reports also show one psychiatric technician forged documents following Skelton's death.

The technician's termination letter reads that video showed he never checked on Skelton even though he documented that he had monitored him.

"When I see people forging records to doctor it up, it made me feel how naive I was to trust a state organization to take care of us. My brother had a mental condition. He had mental problems. But he had value. He had value, OK?" Milton Skelton said.

Skelton's attorney Matt Hardin said he will sue the lawsuit on behalf of the Skelton family.

That lawsuit will be the fourth lawsuit against the institute where families blame the staff for the deaths of their loved ones.

Grant Lawrence, a spokesman for the state department of mental health, again refused our request for an interview, but stated in an email, "We take all instances/complaints of patient abuse and neglect very seriously and conduct full investigations, taking appropriate disciplinary action when it is warranted."

The Channel 4 I-Team has also obtained an internal memo that addresses the photographs we obtained of state employees sleeping inside the institution.

According to a memo, on the very day our investigation aired exposing the photographs, a new policy went into effect telling employees they could not take photographs inside the institute.

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