More workers at Norfolk behavioral health center say facility is understaffed, safety ignored

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A 10 On Your Side story about a fight at a Norfolk behavioral health center has sparked more calls for change.

On Monday, an employee who works at Kempsville Center for Behavioral Health told us several people were injured over the weekend after patients assaulted staff.

Since then, current and past workers have contacted 10 On Your Side saying their concerns about alleged staffing shortages and employee safety have been ignored.

They’re also not happy with the administration’s response to Sunday’s incident.

10 On Your Side spoke with another employee who said they witnessed the chaos unfold and they want something done.

Dispatch audio from Sunday’s incident at the health center gives a glimpse into what happened inside the facility.

“I have a report of a few people attacking staff at the location. Screaming is heard in the background and cursing.”

Norfolk police told us they got a call at the health center for an assault in progress. Police said two patients on two separate floors were causing a disturbance that caused other patients to act out.

In a statement on Monday, the center’s administration confirmed “certain patients collaborated in carrying out a disturbance.”

“I think it was way more than a disturbance,” a current employee at the health center said.

10 On Your Side spoke with another employee who was there. They also wanted to conceal their identity out of fear of losing their job. 

“We had no control at all. Staff was overthrown and the kids had the upper hand,” the employee said.

Scanner audio appears to show EMS first responders were cautious before going inside after police.

“Medics will come in, well, when you give the all clear. They don’t believe that you have the situation under control yet. They don’t feel comfortable going in.”

The employee claims the center is routinely understaffed — the same claim made by another employee we spoke to on Monday.

“You end up stuck with 26 patients by yourself,” the employee said.

The health center administration said the facility was properly staffed during Sunday’s incident.

We wanted to know — what’s the standard staff-to-patient ratio at the behavioral health center? We also wanted to know if anything was being done to address staff safety concerns. 

10 On Your Side reached out to the health center administration again to get answers. 

In an email, Jaime Fernandez, the CEO of the facility said “I do not have any additional comments beyond the statement provided last evening.”

In their initial statement on Monday, health center management said several employees had minor injuries from Sunday’s incident.

Staff members we spoke to claim one employee had a broken bone, but it’s not clear how many staffers were hurt or what type of medical treatment they received.

Police said the only person who went to the hospital was a patient who was detained for a mental evaluation. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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