An official from the Vilardebó Hospital has eight complaints within the State Health Services Administration (ASSE) and one of them was referred to the Justice, according to sources from the organization to El País.
The worker was denounced twice for sexually abusing patientsanother two times for mistreatment of hospital users and the rest of the complaints are divided among other reasons such as repeated absences from work.
Beyond the number of claims against the same official, he continues to work at the hospital. This has to do with the politics of the ASSEbecause until there is a resolution from the Justice and it is proven that he is guilty, he cannot be released from the public body.
Of the eight complaints received by the man, only two investigations are still open. The rest, as El País was able to verify through ASSE sources, are listed as “retained” in the direction of the Vilardebó Hospital. In addition, the file with the official’s background “never reached” the top of the Administration, despite the fact that the first complaint against him dates back to 2018, according to the eight files accessed by El País.
The reasons for the retention of the complaints in the hospital management are not clear. It is possible that the center’s lawyer is analyzing them.
“We are afraid and it is important that it is known that he continues to work here despite the number of complaints,” said a hospital source in this regard.
Like the source, other officials contacted by El País are concerned about the presence of the denounced official in the health center. However, the worker does not have justified reasons to leave, nor does ASSE have the tools to dismiss him or remove him from his position until there is a resolution.
El País tried to get in touch with the director of the Vilardebó Hospital, Federico Sacchi, but he did not want to make any statements in this regard. In any case, ASSE sources communicated the following regarding the case: “The worker was suspended for the maximum time established by the regulations, which is 180 days, and the Justice also intervened, the complaint being in the final stages. Once the maximum period of suspension had expired, as a precautionary measure he was assigned functions other than contact with patients. The other complaints are ongoing and under summary secrecy.”
The 180 days in which the official was removed from the position occurred in 2018, after the first complaint against him, which was for alleged sexual abuse of a patient in room 23 of the hospital.
Upon returning to his duties, as indicated by ASSE, the worker who originally worked as a nurse moved to another office at Hospital Vilardebó.
In addition, it is unknown which of the eight complaints is the one that was referred to Justice and would be “in the final stages.”
The back of the union
The official in question is one of 800 Vilardebó workers who belongs to the Federation of Public Health Officials (FFSP).
According to El País, after receiving the first complaint against him, the worker “approached” the union in search of legal advice, but did not have the support of his colleagues.
“As a union we want to make it clear that we do not defend anything linked to this type of cause, especially when it comes to mistreatment or abuse of patients,” stressed the leader of the FFSP, Pablo Silva, who is also a Vilardebó worker.
Despite the fact that the base union turned its back on him, the official is still active in the Federation.
El País learned that the denounced worker is a member of the Workers’ Confederation of State Officials (COFE).
“Honestly, I don’t know him,” COFE Secretary General Martín Pereira told El País.
According to Pereira, the group is “waiting” to see if the complaints against him are true or not “to evaluate what measures to take.”
The trade unionist emphasized that the Vilardebó worker “is not a leader” of the FFSP and “simply supports the Secretariat.” “I’ve said ‘hello’ and ‘bye’ when we passed each other, but nothing more,” said the COFE spokesman.
For his part, the FFSP representative for the psychiatric hospital, Pablo Silva, explained: “We did not intervene in his case in 2018 and we did not defend him either, therefore, it is possible that this is why he did not come to talk to us anymore. and it goes directly to the central”. For Silva “all this discredits the great work” that the Vilardebó workers do.
“We are not going to defend anything that is against patients. We are even in a constant fight so that this hospital does not close and we want good officials who love the patients because we have to provide them with the best care possible. It’s simple: all of us eat thanks to the users”, said the union leader.
In total, four of the complaints against the official were formalized in 2018, three in 2021 and one in 2022.
For the representative of the FFSP “it makes little sense” that “administrative investigations have such a high level of delay.” “It is necessary that they give guarantees to everyone and they must have a speed to have the truth in the shortest period of time. We are talking about very delicate things and that is why it is necessary to know what to do with the officials,” Silva remarked.
The letter signed by patients in ward 11
Ward 11 of Vilardebó is one of the most feared by hospital officials. There, those deprived of liberty who have a “relevant psychiatric condition” are received to be interned in the place, according to a source from the health center.
On April 19, 2018, a nursing graduate submitted to the then director of the center, Alejandra Caputi, a letter signed by more than 15 patients hospitalized in room 11 of the hospital in order to request that the official who was later denounced eight times to stop carrying out night shifts in that place.
“On the night shift he gives us too many medications, bullies us and messes with the patients so that we fight each other,” says the letter accessed by El País. In addition to the alleged overmedication, the users of room 11 remark in the letter that the worker “as a nurse is not good for the room.” “We don’t want him here anymore”, ends the text written in black pen and capital letters.
Why it repeats itself in mental health
Beyond the fact that the Vilardebó Hospital official was only denounced and has not yet been convicted, in recent years there has been a certain repetition of cases of abuse and mistreatment of mental health patients, especially in the public sector, both among users and part of officials.
In August 2015, a case of rape was confirmed at the Viladerbó Hospital of a 29-year-old patient who had been referred that week from the Cotolengo Don Orione.
A nurse found the young man who was tied up and also showed signs of having been sexually subjected repeatedly.
The young man pointed to another inmate, imprisoned for criminal acts, as the perpetrator of the rape. The presumario’s instruction revealed some flaws in the hospital’s alarm system. Among them, the security cameras did not work, the free access to the victim that the rapist had and the procedure followed once the incident was known.
Another case occurred in 2016, when the State Health Services Administration (ASSE) dismissed an official and added two for cases of sexual abuse and harassment in Vilardebó and also in Colonia Etchepare and Santín Carlos Rossi. One of the officials who was sued at that time “incurred in a deviation of conduct with patients of Pavilion 9, addressing them with inappropriate expressions of sexual tenor, as well as using a flashlight-picana and for having had sexual relations with a patient who stays there”, in accordance with what established an internal resolution of ASSE.
The then director of mental health of ASSE, Horacio Porciúncula, expressed at the time that “greater controls of the personnel” were being carried out so that similar situations do not happen again. “These are learnings so that things like these never happen again,” added the hierarch there.
In addition, in February 2021, the Vilardebó management decided to initiate an administrative investigation after a complaint was filed by a patient who had been tied to a bed without a mattress under it and without a justified explanation for doing so. A photo that was disclosed in the Social media at the time showed the psychiatric center patient tied to the bed with a single sheet placed between the bed rail and his body. The results of the investigation are unknown.
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Official and union member of Vilardebó adds complaints of sexual abuse and continues to work