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Fired K’zoo psych hospital workers preparing to file class action lawsuit

Posted at 10:05 PM, Jan 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-26 23:12:56-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Fired from their jobs over allegations of assaulting a patient, several former care aids from the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital say they are moving closer to filing a class action lawsuit against the State of Michigan for what they claim was wrongful termination.

There are several alleged incidents dating back several months involving just one patient at the hospital. The patient, a man in his 30s, is one former employee Mike Fitzgerald claims had a history of combative and assaultive behavior. In June of 2014, the patient in question suffered a broken arm, an injury Fitzgerald says was a result of care directives handed down from and approved by the state.

"Everybody saw it, upper management, the Office of Recipient Rights, everyone who came on that unit saw us manually restraining him by doctor's order and approved it," he told FOX 17.

Fitzgerald, who was terminated from the facility in January, said doctors had advised the care workers to only restrain the patient manually, not to use a 4-point restraint. Those directives resulted in numerous employee injuries, according to Fitzgerald who says the state is using the employees as 'scapegoats' in this situation.

"The state is not listening to us, we have documentation showing they let this happen," he said.

An email provided to FOX 17 by Fitzgerald from May 2014, sent between a supervisor at the hospital and several administrators within the Michigan Department of Community Health, shows staff at the hospital had attempted to warn the state of the patient's behavior leading up to the June 2014 incident.

Fitzgerald said the email is one of many documents showing the state failed to address the concerns.

"We had numerous staff meetings to discuss [the patient's] care and the danger he posed to everyone involved," the email said.

"Staff frequently voiced their concerns to the doctors and management of KPH. Our concerns were not heeded or addressed."

In October, Jennifer Smith a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Community Health told FOX 17 there was a “culture problem” at the hospital, which included an issue with employee attitudes.

Smith told FOX 17 by email Monday night the department had not yet been served with any lawsuit from the employees and as a department does not comment on any potential or pending litigation.

Meantime, Fitzgerald said he wants to see the state take some responsibility.

"We want the people responsible for this huge controversy to be brought up to find out who is accountable for this, the state took advantage of us over the situation and are blaming us for the whole thing, " he said.

"We want a totally transparent investigation, we have documentation showing what happened, the whole truth is available in print."