- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - A former director of the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital failed to report that the death of a patient in March may have involved negligence, according to a state investigation.

WOOD-TV and the Kalamazoo Gazette obtained details of the investigation by the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Office of Recipient Rights via the Freedom of Information Act. According to the state, the hospital controlled the release of information to the state in that and other cases.

“That is something we are very concerned about,” said Department of Community Health spokeswoman Angela Minicuci. “We acted as quickly as we could to address it.”

The state suspended Director James J. Coleman in May, acting on complaints about patient treatment, which included the March 6 death of 68-year-old Majel Youdell of Kalamazoo. Video surveillance shows she removed her own oxygen tube and walked to a bathroom.

When Youdell returned, she didn’t reattach the tube. About three minutes passed before staff noticed her oxygen wasn’t connected and she died about an hour later. Her death certificate attributes her death to natural causes, noting she had other health problems.

The death was reviewed by several committees and the Joint Commission, an accrediting body, and the hospital was not found culpable.

Coleman, who disputes the state investigation’s findings, later resigned from the post he held since 1987. A nurse and a nursing director who was suspended in May were fired. Coleman said he resigned in part because state officials weren’t dealing with him fairly.

“I leave secure in the knowledge that the assertion that I failed to report neglect … is unfounded, unwarranted and has no basis in fact,” Coleman wrote in a letter of resignation that he provided to the Kalamazoo Gazette.

According to the report, Coleman knew of allegations that a nurse’s failure to follow hospital procedures may have contributed to the death but didn’t report that to the Office of Recipient Rights, as required. Some nurses also weren’t properly informed about the patient’s health issues, the report said.

Youdell’s family is deciding what to do next.

“My aunt’s life was in the hands of the people at the hospital and she deserved the very best care as every patient does,” Youdell’s niece Gretchen VanNess told WOOD-TV.

The facility is one of three state hospitals in Michigan that provide adult inpatient psychiatric services. It has an average of 160 patients.

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