Officials Hiring Firm To Evaluate Cherry Hospital, Adding More Security

By: Bill Wilson
By: Bill Wilson

There are new developments in the controversy over Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced it's hiring an independent hospital management firm to evaluate the mental facility in Goldsboro.

Security is also going to be increased on the campus.

State officials have already disciplined staff and closed one of the hospital's wards following the death of a patient who was left unattended for 22 hours. The 50-year-old patient was left in a chair and choked on medication.

Officials hope to have an independent outside hospital management firm contracted in two weeks to evaluate the operational and management structure of the facility.

"The serious and ongoing nature of issues at Cherry Hospital has convinced me that an outside evaluation by an independent hospital management group is necessary in order to identify problems and to recommend immediate steps for corrections and improvements," DHHS Secretary Dempsey Benton said.

The contracted firm will also have on-site management responsibility for the hospital while conducting the evaluation.

"We want a top-to-bottom evaluation of every aspect of the hospital including staffing, organizational structure, the competence and effectiveness of managers and supervisors at all levels, and all other components of hospital management and operational activities," said Leza Wainwright, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services.

The Secretary also directed the Division to implement increased security at Cherry Hospital. Wainwright said that the Division is in talks with local law enforcement agencies to negotiate the hiring of off-duty officers as contracted employees for a higher level of security presence on the campus.

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Two Cherry Hospital employees have been arrested for assaulting a patients at the state mental health hospital.

Arrest warrants show the employees were charged Friday with misdemeanor assault/battery on a handicapped person.

William Johnson and Taniko Upton, both of Goldsboro are accused of striking the patient around the abdomen area, knocking the patient to the floor and then kicking and punching the patient in the head and side.

The warrants say the attack happened last Monday and both employees were released on a $5,000 secured bond.

A North Carolina Health & Human Services spokesman says the two employees will be fired from the jobs.

The arrest comes less than a week after the state closed an adult admissions ward at Cherry where a dying man was ignored by nursing staff.

Steven Sabock, 50, died at the mental hospital on April 29, after sitting in a chair for more than 22 hours without food or help using the bathroom. Hospital staff members were captured by security video playing cards and watching television in the room where Sabock sat.

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