Advocates Call for Reductions in NYC Hospital's Use of Restraints

 map of Bellevue Hospital Center

by Andy Jones
December 10, 2016

One of Manhattan’s most well-known hospitals is using restraints on patients at a far higher rate than other area hospitals, Disability Rights New York and Mental Hygiene Legal Service assert in a new report.

“We're very concerned that Bellevue, which has a national and international reputation for being the gold standard of psychiatric care, is using these interventions at this rate," Valentina Morales, an attorney with MHLS, recently told the Gothamist. "Our research revealed cases where individual patients were placed in restraints so frequently during their hospitalization that restraint almost appeared to be an element of their treatment plan."

Of particular concern for the advocates is the Bellevue Hospital staff's alleged frequent use of mechanical restraints, also known as four-point and wrist-and-ankle restraints, which involve strapping patients to a bed.

At any given time, Bellevue Hospital has 330 beds and about 360 patients under its care. During the one-year period starting in September 2014, Bellevue hospital staff allegedly subjected patients to 1,328 mechanical restraints and 2417 physical restraints, a rate far higher than the figure reported by the hospital.

This rate of 6.7 restraints per bed is far higher than any other public hospital in the New York City area, with the next highest rate coming from Brooklyn-based Kings County Hospital, which had a rate of 4.6 restraints per bed.

Although Bellevue Hospital’s internal policy prohibits chemical restraints, referring to the use of psychotropic medications as an intervention technique, investigators found that they are frequently used before undergoing mechanical restraints.

The advocates called on the hospital to focus on de-escalation and other less restrictive internentions, review its training programs, improve staff-to-patient ratios and require debriefing before each use of restraint, among other recommendations.

“Failure to adhere to these recommendations will continue to put patients at increased risk and is unacceptable,” said Timothy A. Clune, executive director of DRNY, in a news release.

The full report, published November 1, can be read here.

Disability Rights Washington and Disability Rights New York are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and New York, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.