Police detain staff over abuse at mental hospital

Doctors, therapists among the 75 detained for suspected physical, sexual abuse of patients at Petah Tikva mental health institute.

Mental health inmate rests in bed [illustrative] 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jianan Yu)
Mental health inmate rests in bed [illustrative] 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jianan Yu)
Police arrested over 70 medical practitioners from a Petah Tikva private mental health institute on Wednesday morning for allegedly abusing inmates over several years.
The suspects, among whom are doctors and therapists, are believed to have committed sexual offenses, and to have beaten and tied to their beds some of the 160 patients at the Neveh Yaakov facility, aged 20 to 70.
The arrests resulted from an undercover investigation conducted over a period of several months by Israel Police in collaboration with the Health and the Welfare and Social Services Ministries.
The Health Ministry said that in April, following complaints of violence and abuse against patients, the central district psychiatrist decided to file a complaint with the police. The ministry carried out surprise visits at Neveh Yaakov to determine whether anything untoward was going on.
“We bury our son day after day; we are a devastated family,” Dalia, whose 24-year-old son was a patient at the hospital, told Army Radio. “We complained to the administrator, we told him that our son said ‘mother, I have no strength,’ because they raised his medicine intake. He doesn’t feel well, so I can’t take him home. They just abuse him.”
She added: “We don’t sleep. We live in fear that tonight he will be hit or they will inject him.”
Two hundred policemen participated in the raid on Wednesday morning, which was lead by Police Chief Superintendent Sigal Bar-Zvi.
“This is a case of abuse of helpless individuals,” Bar-Zvi said. “They are very serious patients, some have mental disabilities, some have cognitive disabilities, some have both, and there are also inmates with physical handicaps.”
Bar-Zvi explained that not all of the suspects detained for interrogation are accused of abuse; some are suspected of knowing about the events and not fulfilling their duty to report them to the authorities.
“We intend to bring justice to light and uncover what went on within this very closed institution,” she added.
Commenting on the case, Kadima MK Rachel Adatto attributed blame for the alleged abuse to a “lack of government supervision, a pact of silence, inadequate funding and brutality and evil by caretakers who have been arrested for questioning.”
Adatto, a physician who heads the Knesset Health Lobby, said a 50 percent cut in the Health and Welfare Ministries’ funding for hospitalization of the chronically ill in public mental health centers was directly responsible for the transfer of patients to private institutions.
The Health Ministry has temporarily taken over responsibility for running the institution while police investigate the matter.
The families of the patients were informed of the changes.
A representative of the institute’s management said it would cooperate with the police on the case.