“Hospital of Horrors” sounds like a nightmare out of a horror movie, but it is, unfortunately, a reality that has happened and is under a lot of heat at this time. Cook County’s public guardian is suing the psychiatric ward on behalf of seven abused children and teenagers while in the mental health facility.
For the children who were held by state protective custody, they lived the horror of abuse no child or adult should ever have to face. The children who were victimized were as young as seven years old all the way to 16-years-old. All were either molested, beaten, or improperly medicated at the Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital.
There are former and current employees who are named in the complaint against the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The former acting director Beverly “B.J.” Walker resigned earlier this year but was criticized for not tending to the accusations quick enough. Complaints were called into the child abuse hotline run by the state of Illinois. Reports came in at an alarming rate concerning the unsafe conditions within the private hospital.
It wasn’t until state lawmakers and advocacy watchdogs intervened that Walker finally started looking into the situation. By then, it was long overdue, and the damage had already been done on several occasions. ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune got involved and uncovered the warning from the DCFS inspector general that those admitted to the Lakeshore hospital were in grave danger.
In November 2018, DCFS would no longer allow admitting children anymore to the Lakeshore Hospital. They put their staff in the hospital to monitor the facility 24/7 until the last child was discharged.
The lawsuit stated, Public Guardian Charles Golbert alleges that the officials were aware of the problems but did nothing. They turned a blind eye due to their shortage of staff who would take in the foster kids. It was also noted when the children and teens were discharged, the state’s payments came at a slow pace and were no help to the facility in placing the children.
Golbert stated, “When youth enter the DCFS system, they frequently have already experienced severe trauma and are among our area’s most vulnerable residents. But rather than providing these young children the focused care they deserved, DCFS sent them to Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, knowing they would not be safe. It shocks the conscience that Illinois officials would treat our youth this way.”
The Chicago Tribune is no stranger to these types of stories and reports. There were many reports where the lack of hospital staff was to blame, and the reports always came too little, too late for the DCFS to investigate.
The most recent lawsuit is the one with the seven former patients between the ages of seven and 16. They were admitted to the hospital between 2017 and 2018. Since these are all minors, the names were not revealed. In 2017, one 14-year-old girl stated a female nurse watched pornography movies with her and had inappropriate sexual contact with other patients along with her as well.
The nurse involved was also accused of letting other patients view the records of those in the hospital and allowed minors to fill their own medical paperwork. This 14-year-old girl also went missing for a few months due to the lack of supervision.
In 2018, another 12-year-old girl had a separate complaint where a male staff member “forced her hand on his genitals and grabbed her breasts.” The lawsuit stated her, and another 16-year-old patient reported the incident, and the inappropriate comments made them. It was said the hospital staff retaliated against the girls when they reported what happened. The staff members of this incident are no longer working at Lakeshore, and neither faced criminal charges.
The female nurse lost her professional license in April due to crimes not related to this incident. She was arrested for drug use and theft. The former nurse had other charges of aggravated battery and attempted murder for attacking her roommate.
A seven-year-old boy and eight-year-old girl were both sexually assaulted by patients within the hospital in separate incidents. The hospital failed to do a medical examination and did not report or do any investigations into the crime.
A 12-year-old boy was another one who was molested by an older patient. The hospital knew of the history of the older patient but did not take proper measures to protect the child. The hospital and staff did not care, but they do now.