For years the Texas Legislature has apparently been unable to create a cohesive plan to overhaul health and safety conditions affecting operations at Terrell State Hospital (TSH).
Located within the heart of Terrell Texas, it appears that once again Terrell State Hospital is being investigated by state and federal agencies in regard to health, safety and employment conditions which are dangerous for both the patients and the employees of the state operated facility.
In 2015 the Texas Legislature heavily considered privatizing the 133 year old state mental facility. However, after dozens of TSH employees opposed the plan presented, the legislature instead moved the managerial oversight of the hospital from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHSC).
In early 2016 the Health and Human Services division began reorganization efforts at the hospital which were designed to produce a more efficient, effective and responsive administration. The Legislature set specific goals, created an HHS Advisory Committee and fully expected that a true transformation would result from their efforts.
However, nothing has changed at Terrell State Hospital. There has been no transformation that has benefited patient care, nor have any changes occurred to the working environment of the hospital.
According to several hospital employees, “no one from Austin” has ever came to the hospital to make sure that the patients and employees were protected from the many questionable decisions made by administrator's who control hospital operations from the fourth floor of the aging Administration Building.
At least six buildings, including the Geriatric Unit, Witt, Chambers and Building 650 C-1 have considerable issues with asbestos and black mold within the air vent systems.
To no avail, these dangerous airborne contaminates have been reported time and again to TSH Superintendent Dorothy Floyd, Assistant Superintendent Regan Teal and Director of Maintenance Matt Schoenfield.
A recent “remodel” and reorganization of several patient wards encouraged many employees to believe that their work areas, as well as patient areas, are free of airborne toxins.
However, this remodel along with several other safety issues are now being investigated by the HHSC Asbestos Safety Division, OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazards Administration) and JCAHO (Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals).
Certified as a minimum security mental hospital, Terrell State Hospital is also quickly becoming a forensic state mental facility. TSH currently houses 316 mental patients and 53% of these patients are forensic patients who have been committed by a criminal court.
Many of these patients have committed violent crimes such as murder, and many are registered sex offenders.
This increase in the admittance of violently prone, mentally ill patients is requiring additional staffing on the patient wards because sometimes as many as four attendees (PNA's) will need to be assigned to monitor the behavior of a single patient.
TSH employees, some of whom are not certified in the care of high-risk patients, are being placed in dangerous situations and the increase in forensic patients is also creating a raising concern for the safety of the neighborhood adjacent to the hospital.
Approximately a half-dozen patients literally walk away from TSH each month. Reported as a U.D. (unauthorized discharge) to the City of Terrell Police Department, because the Security Department at TSH has no jurisdiction outside hospital grounds, it’s the officers of the Terrell Police Department who regularly capture wayward patients.
And lastly, the hardworking employees of TSH, many of whom are very dedicated to these patients, deserve much better from their employer; the State of Texas HHSC.
Numerous TSH employee complaints have been lodged with HHSC over the past few years. And unfortunately no real assistance or magical transformation has yet been delivered to these employees by the State of Texas.
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the US Department of Labor are currently looking into complaints of ongoing discrimination against employees of color and into several cases where the employment benefits of employees have been misinterpreted and or discontinued by Human Resource Director Monica Pittman and Superintendent Dorothy Floyd.
Many current employees are very hesitant to report employee or patient mistreatment for fear of retaliation by TSH Administration.
However, as State of Texas employees these individuals have the legal right to speak out on their own behalf, and most certainly in protection of the mentally challenged patients currently residing at the hospital.
Any employee or former employee of Terrell State Hospital, who has been financially or emotionally harmed or their employment or employee benefits unjustifiably terminated, may contact The Forney Post Editor Desk at 972-607-0169 to obtain direct contact information for the investigating agencies involved.
Written by: Denise Bell