Report: Number of sexual assault or abuse incidents in Connecticut hospitals doubled

HARTFORD --  The Department of Public Health’s 2016 Quality in Heath Care Program report was released this week and revealed the number of sexual assaults and abuses in hospitals in Connecticut were twice as high in 2016 than in any other previous year.

The report showed there was a total of 24 cases in 2016, seven of which were staff to patient, two were patient to staff, 10 were patient to patient, and five were cases in which the abuser was unknown.

The victims ranged in age from 10 to 59-years-old.  14 of the cases reportedly happened within a hospital’s psychiatric ward and the majority of the victims were females.

“Patient safety is something that all Connecticut residents have a right to expect,” Lisa Freeman, Executive Director of the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety said in reaction to the findings.  She went on to say, “I think the hospitals have an explicit obligation to protect the wellbeing of patients.  It doesn’t matter if a hospital has one report or 10 reports, it simply can’t be allowed to happen and it can’t be tolerated.”

The report states that St. Vincent Medical Center in Bridgeport had the highest number of cases with 10.

A spokesperson for the medical center sent FOX61 the following statement on the matter:

Patient and associate safety is our top priority. For any incident, we conduct a thorough internal investigation and fully cooperate with law enforcement officials. Our focus is to remain committed to delivering quality care to our community.

The second highest number of sexual assault or abuse cases were reported at Yale New Haven Hospital.  FOX61 reached out to the hospital and was referred to the Connecticut Hospital Association.  They said they believe the large number of cases addressed in the report are to do with a clarification issue and expect that number to go down in the 2017 report.

Connecticut hospitals take seriously all allegations of sexual assault and work to ensure patients are safe.  Prior to 2017, the definition of what needed to be reported was unclear, resulting in an over capture of information.  During the 2016 calendar year, CHA worked with DPH to get clarification on what should be reported. Starting January 1, 2017, it was clarified that only substantiated events should be reported.

Freeman said she urges anyone who needs to go to the hospital to be sure to go with someone you trust.

“Patients should always have someone with them in a hospital.  We always recommend that a patient has an advocate or somebody to act as their advocate with them, that would certainly reduce the opportunity,” Freeman said.