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Brooklyn Hospital Ordered to Shape Up

(CN) - In the wake of the highly publicized waiting room death of Esmin Green, federal officials said New York City has agreed to correct conditions of confinement at the Kings County Hospital Center's psychiatric emergency room and psychiatric in-patient units in Brooklyn.

In June 2008, Green collapsed in the hospital's psychiatric emergency room after waiting 23 hours to be seen by a doctor. Green was on the floor for more than an hour while hospital employees, including doctors and security staff, walked in and out of the area, ignoring her condition and making no effort to attend to her.

The medical examiner found that she died from blood clots in her legs due to prolonged sitting. Subsequently, the Justice Department entered into negotiations with the city to correct unconstitutional conditions at the hospital.

A federal judge approved the consent judgment on Friday. Among other things, the city agreed to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling in Olmstead v. L.C., and see that patients are free from undue restraint.

A joint investigation of the psychiatric units at Kings County Hospital Center, begun in December 2007, uncovered systemic deficiencies that violated the constitutional rights of psychiatric patients. Violations included failure to protect patients from harm, failure to treat their psychiatric disabilities, use of drugs to sedate rather than treat patients, failure to provide adequate and individualized discharge planning and follow-up services, falsification of medical records, and failure to respond promptly to medical emergencies.

The agreement provides for regular site visits by a team of experts to assess compliance, for at least 5 years.

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