Patient’s death at Oregon State Hospital likely a suicide

From the Salem Statesman Journal, December 29, 2010

An Oregon State Hospital patient apparently committed suicide Monday night in a single-person bedroom in the hospital’s forensic psychiatric program, officials said Tuesday.

The female patient died on Ward 50I, a medium-security forensic unit that houses more than two-dozen men and women.

A staffer reportedly found the patient near death in her room at 9:28 p.m. Monday.

Oregon State Hospital Replacement Project (OSHRP) is expected to cost approximately $458 million.

Oregon State Hospital Replacement Project (OSHRP) is expected to cost approximately $458 million.

“Staff found the patient while conducting rounds and immediately initiated CPR and called 911; however, the paramedics were unable to revive the individual,” hospital superintendent Greg Roberts said Tuesday in a message to members of the state hospital advisory board.

“It appears the patient committed suicide. As is standard procedure in these situations, we notified state police, and they are conducting an investigation. The family has been notified, and our thoughts and prayers are with them in their time of loss. We will make sure they, as well as patients and staff, have the support they need.”

Roberts said the hospital will conduct “a full review” of the death “to ensure all hospital policies and procedures were followed surrounding the incident.”

Oregon State Police identified the deceased patient as Anne Elizabeth Sellers, 32.

An autopsy was performed Tuesday by the state medical examiner, but the results “are not going to be released at this time pending the ongoing investigation,” said state police Lt. Gregg Hastings.

Other patients on Ward 50I told the Statesman Journal that Sellers hanged herself.

Sellers had a history of suicide attempts and often received around-the-clock staff supervision, patients said.

Several months ago, she was placed on intensive supervision — known as a constant watch in hospital parlance — after she tried to cut her throat with a kitchen knife while attending a cooking class, they said.

Sellers recently was taken off tight supervision and assigned to a private room after going for an extended period of time without any behavioral problems, patients said.

Her death shocked patients and staffers at the troubled mental institution.

“Some patients are really upset. Others are really sad,” said Renee Putnam, a patient on Ward 50I.

Putnam and other patients described Sellers as quiet, shy and a bookworm. They said she worked as the librarian at a centralized treatment mall and was well-known and well-liked by fellow patients and staffers.

“They’re upset, of course,” hospital spokeswoman Rebeka Gipson-King said. “We’re going to be making sure that all the patients’ needs are met so far as support. Some patients are going to need more help than others — those who were closer to that patient.”

Hospital officials said confidentiality laws prevented them from disclosing the patient’s name or specifics about the apparent suicide. Officials also declined to say when or how many times staff checked on the patient Monday, saying that the information also was covered by confidentiality laws.

Sellers was admitted to the state hospital in early 2007 after being found guilty but insane for Lane County charges of assault on a public safety officer, unlawful use of a firearm and resisting arrest, records show. She was to remain under the jurisdiction of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board for 10 years.

The last suicide at OSH occurred about two years ago. On Oct. 29, 2008, patient David Morse hanged himself on Ward 50F by tying a cloth around his neck and attaching it to a metal bed frame tilted up. Morse was still alive when staff cut the cloth from around his neck. Transported to Salem Hospital, he died of medical complications caused by the hanging.

Last year, a patient death prompted inquiries that pointed to lapses in patient care, leading to a shake up in hospital leadership and new bed-check procedures.

Moises Perez
, 42, was found dead in his hospital bed on Oct. 17, 2009. Witnesses said his death was not noticed by anyone for several hours. An autopsy showed that Perez died of heart disease.

A state investigation concluded that the hospital neglected Perez by failing to provide him with adequate medical care. Investigators reported that Perez’s caregivers on hospital Ward 50F failed to properly treat his chronic medical conditions.

Former hospital superintendent Roy Orr was forced to resign April 2 — the same day the state released the critical report examining lapses in Perez’s care.

Five hospital employees subsequently received letters of reprimand for their shortcomings involving Perez and the doctor in charge of his care resigned.

In the wake of Perez’s death, the hospital instituted new bed-check policies, requiring expanded checks on patients.

Putnam praised staff members on Ward 50I for responding quickly to Monday night’s incident.

“They were just doing their rounds and found her and they immediately went into action,” she said. “They’re pretty good with their rounds up here. I mean, they’re pretty right on with the times.”

But another resident of Ward 50I, who asked to remain anonymous citing concerns about possible retaliation or other repercussions, said many patients have a hard time dealing with boredom, stress and friction caused, in part, by idle time.

“Right now, we’re on Christmas break, so there’s absolutely nothing to do,” she said. “We sit around in different rooms or our bedrooms and that’s when people can cycle, then the whole ward is basically involved in trauma or drama or violence.”