Carney puts guards in adolescent unit

By Liz Kowalczyk
Globe Staff / June 1, 2011

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Carney Hospital has hired around-the-clock security guards for its adolescent psychiatry unit and is requiring nurse supervisors to check hourly that “staff are appropriately engaged with patients,’’ according to a response plan the hospital developed after an alleged sexual assault on the unit.

Carney submitted the plan to the state Department of Mental Health April 27 following allegations that an employee sexually assaulted a young patient. The mental health agency provided the hospital’s “immediate corrective action plans’’ to the Globe yesterday.

Carney, in Dorchester, fired the entire staff — 29 nurses and counselors — of its 14-bed locked psychiatry unit for troubled teenagers last Thursday, after an investigation into the alleged assault uncovered serious patient safety problems.

Yesterday, Bill Walczak, hospital president, said the hospital had also fired high-level Carney administrators. Walczak, who would not comment on why the unit’s entire staff was fired, also declined to provide details about why the administrators were let go. “We determined there were failures at a number of levels,’’ he said.

“Until the investigation is complete, any staff who may be implicated in any way are placed on administrative leave,’’ the hospital’s plan said. Those members were subsequently fired.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, the union representing nurses at the hospital, said it has filed a grievance on behalf of the 13 nurses fired.

In its plan, the hospital said, “All staff will be required to undergo training pertaining to mandated reporting requirements and attest that they understand and will be in compliance.’’

Walczak would not comment on why the training is necessary.

He said staff on the unit immediately reported the alleged assault to superiors and that administrators reported it right away to the Mental Health Department and to the Department of Children and Families, which a state spokeswoman said are investigating.

Walczak said the hospital did not report the alleged assault to law enforcement agencies because its policy in this type of situation is to leave that decision to patients and their families. A spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office said that in the event of sexual assault allegations, hospitals “may contact local law enforcement authorities’’ but are not required to.

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at

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