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New York City to Pay $2 M in Death After Hospital Wait

New York City has agreed to pay $2 million to the family of a woman who died last year on the floor of the psychiatric emergency room at Kings County Hospital Center after waiting more than 24 hours to be treated.

A video showed the woman on the floor for more than an hour while workers at the city-run hospital did nothing to help her.

The city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation accepted full responsibility for the death of the woman, Esmin Elizabeth Green, 49, and said it had taken steps to relieve crowding and increase the size of the staff to provide mental health services at the hospital.

The death came amid mounting concern over conditions in the psychiatric service at the hospital, the only mental health provider for many poor people in Brooklyn.

In May 2007, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit alleging abuse and neglect of psychiatric patients at the hospital, and later that year the federal Department of Justice began an investigation. In February 2009, the authorities issued a 58-page report that found, among other problems, that patients were not treated for suicidal behavior, were routinely subdued with physical restraints and drugs instead of receiving individualized psychiatric treatment, and were abused by other patients.

The report found that conditions at the psychiatric unit were “highly dangerous and require immediate attention.” It also concluded that in at least three cases, including Ms. Green’s, employees falsified records to hide their neglect.

Ms. Green had immigrated from Jamaica in the late 1990s to earn money for her six children back home. She had worked caring for the elderly and helping at a day care center for children before she lost her job. She suffered from depression. The medical examiner said her death was caused by blood clots that moved from her legs to her lungs.

The hospital system said it had undertaken numerous reforms, including construction of a new Behavioral Health Center Pavilion; the addition of more than 200 doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and other staff members; a reduction in crowding in the psychiatric emergency room; and reduced reliance on hospital police officers to manage patients in crisis.

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