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Reports show egregious lapses in patient care at SoCal psychiatric hospital

Photo by Kristy Johnson via Flickr Creative Commons

The case of Diane Rodrigues -- a 52-year-old psychiatric patient who suffered a broken neck that went unnoticed and untreated for hours at Norwalk's Metropolitan State Hospital -- was among about a dozen cited in court documents as part of a massive court-supervised effort to improve care in the state's psychiatric hospitals.

The L.A. Times obtained internal investigative reports that show workers at the facility slept on the job, failed to make regular patient checks, did not provide timely treatments, falsified documents, lied to protect themselves and committed other serious violations and lapses in patient care.

Diane Rodrigues sang, prayed and bounced on her bed during the night at Metropolitan State Hospital. A nurse assigned to keep her under constant watch sat by, occasionally dozing. By 7 a.m., the 52-year-old psychiatric patient was lying motionless on the floor, her neck broken.

It took at least an hour for caregivers at the Norwalk mental hospital to glean the extent of her injuries. It took four more hours to send her to a trauma center for treatment. Rodrigues, a former kindergarten teacher, was left paralyzed after the November 2009 accident and died six months later from related respiratory complications.

Of the dozen key workers faulted by investigators in the Rodrigues case, two retired and four resigned. The others still work there.