Department of Labor Logo OSHA News Release - Region 4


June 15, 2023

 

Federal investigation finds Jacksonville treatment facility failed to improve worker safety procedures despite nearly 200 violent incidents in 2022

Wekiva Springs Center LLC employees reported 10 assaults in 53 days by patients

JACKSONVILLE, FL – The findings of a federal workplace safety investigation are shocking — workers assaulted, confined by patients, and suffering broken bones and concussions and wounds from being scratched, bitten, punched and kicked — at a Jacksonville behavioral health and substance disorder facility.

Perhaps more shocking is how often and for how long employees at the UHS of Delaware Inc.-Wekiva Springs Center LLC – operating as Wekiva Springs Hospital – endured regular and often intense incidents of workplace violence: reports of 182 alleged incidents in 2022, nearly 70 percent of which required police response in a six-month period, and 10 alleged violent incidents in less than two months in late 2022.

"Wekiva Springs Center exposed the people they hired to assist and care for their patients to an alarming rate of workplace violence. They also failed to take sufficient steps to change ineffective procedures for protecting their workers and, as a result, the dangers continued unchecked," explained OSHA Area Office Director Scott Tisdale in Jacksonville, Florida. "This facility's lack of action to protect their employees' safety and health is concerning to say the least. No one should ever work in fear of death, violent assault and serious injury just to earn a living."

OSHA's investigators found the Wekiva Springs Center exposed workers to violence regularly as they interacted with patients in 2022. The agency learned that workers reported the following:

  • A patient threw a chair at a mental health associate and three nurses in an attempt to leave the facility.
  • A nurse on duty suffered a patient's kick to their stomach.
  • A mental health associate had their head smashed into an air conditioning unit repeatedly and suffered a concussion at the hands of a patient who refused to be escorted to their room.

In addition, OSHA determined the facility allowed behavioral mental health associates and nurses to be exposed to physical threats and assaults, such as being bitten, punched, kicked, scratched and spat upon by patients during routine interactions, daily activities and while providing care. Many of these alleged assaults led to sprains, contusions, lacerations, fractures and concussions.

OSHA issued Wekiva Springs Center, LLC a citation for a serious violation for its failure to provide a workplace free from recognized health and safety hazards which caused, or were likely to cause, serious physical harm or death. The agency has proposed $15,625 in penalties.

Wekiva Springs Center LLC employs about 218 workers in Jacksonville and finances patient care, in part, by federal insurance plans like Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. UHS, one of the nation's largest hospital and healthcare services systems, has 94,000 employees working at 400 acute care hospitals, behavioral health facilities and ambulatory centers in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.K.

UHS of Delaware has an extensive history of OSHA investigations and violations. On Jan. 20, 2023, a federal administrative law judge affirmed that UHS of Delaware Inc. exposed employees to workplace violence without adequate protections in 2019, particularly at times when hospital staffing was low. In addition, a judge sanctioned UHS of Delaware for destroying surveillance videos showing workplace violence.

UHS of Delaware, Inc. has contested the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

View information on Worker Safety in Hospitals and Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers.

Learn more about OSHA.

 

Media Contacts:

Erika Ruthman, 678-237-0630, ruthman.erika.b@dol.gov
Eric R. Lucero, 678-237-0630, lucero.eric.r@dol.gov

Release Number:  22-896-ATL