GOLDSBORO, N.C. – North Carolina officials have fired three employees and disciplined others in the death of a patient who was neglected for more than 22 hours at a state-operated mental hospital.
The employees at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro were fired over the death of Steven H. Sabock, 50, of Roanoke Rapids, who had a bipolar disorder and died April 29 after choking on medication and hitting his head.
Surveillance video shows employees playing cards and watching television and ignoring Sabock as he slumped in a chair.
State officials said 10 other employees were disciplined. One received a five-day suspension, four others were suspended for three days and five received written warnings, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Thursday.
Employees at the hospital are being trained and were moved out of the ward where the death occurred. Widow Susan Sabock of Winchester, Va., said she could only watch a few minutes of the video that was released by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
"It's very hard for me to watch, but of what I've seen, it's the most disgusting thing I can imagine," Susan Sabock said. "It's like we're in a bad dream and we just can't get up. How is this hospital still open? I just don't understand."
A criminal investigation was started by the State Bureau of Investigation in August. A report prepared by the hospital nursing director said employees checked Sabock's vital signs, but the video shows they didn't.
The state medical examiner concluded that Sabock died of a pre-existing heart condition. The autopsy report said the patient's brain had a mild accumulation of fluid that can indicate injury.
Federal regulators withdrew Medicare and Medicaid funding worth about $800,000 a month after the death.