Editor's Note: The following editorial by News and Sentinel of Colebrook Publisher Karen Harrigan initially ran in that newspaper last week. It reflects, as only that hometown newspaper could, on the...
MANCHESTER— A worker at the Elliot Hospital received "very serious injuries" to his face and head when he was attacked Monday by a patient in the emergency department's psychiatric evaulation room, according to police and hospital officials.
Elliot Hospital described the attack as tragic, and the patient — Manchester resident Ansel Kinglocke, 33 — was arrested and charged with felony first-degree assault.
Kinglocke had been a patient at the hosptial since Friday, according to police Lt. Michael Hurley.
Throughout this year, physicians, hospitals and advocates for the mentally ill have complained about long waits in hospital emergency rooms for patients as they undergo hallucinations, mania, depression, suicidal thoughts or other mental health crises.
"It presents serious challenges for both the staff and patient for life-safety issues," said Ken Norton, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness New Hampshire.
He said statistics complied over a 5-month period last year showed that more people wait for admission to the New Hampshire Hospital on Mondays than any other day of the week.
In a statement, Elliot Hospital did not name Kinglocke, but said the patient had been in the psychiatric evaluation area of the emergency department.
Police said the two injured hospital workers were members of the medical staff. Donald Whyman, 52, received the most serious injuries and is being treated at a Boston hospital, police said. Melissa Clermont, 33, suffered less severe injuries to her head. Kinglocke faces a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from that attack.
Police said they were called to the hospital at 11:10 a.m. Monday. The initial call made mention of a firearm, but that proved to be unfounded, said police spokesman Lt. Maureen Tessier.
By the time police arrived, Kinglocke was inside the hospital and under the supervison of hospital security, police said.
Police said they know of no weapon used in the attack.
Kinglocke was held at the Valley Street Jail on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at Manchester District Court this morning.
In a statement, Elliot Hospital said it was grateful for the rapid response of its trauma team.
"We are deeply saddened by this event and our collective thoughts and prayers are with our colleagues and their families as they recover from today's tragic events," the statement reads.
Just eight days ago, a new state budget went into effect that earmarks an additional $28 million for mental health treatment.
Norton said those effort includes 10 new beds at the New Hampshire Hosptial, which have already opened, and an involuntary treatment program at Franklin Regional Hospital.
Other aspects of the effort include community-based treatment teams and housing resources, but those have yet to come to fruition, Norton said.
An emergency room is poorly suited for somone undergoing a mental health emergency, he said. It has no windows. It has flashing lights and intercom noises. And dangerous objects such as scalpels are close at hand.
Furthermore, emergency room physicians are not equipped to deal with a patient stuggling with mental illness. Waits of one to two days are common, and they have exceeded a week, Norton said.