MANCHESTER — An Elliot Hospital worker had his jaw broken in four places, lost four teeth and was near death following an alleged attack by a mentally ill hospital patient, according to a police investigation into the Monday assault at the hospital.
The investigation also shows that Ansel Kinglocke, 33, of 495 Old Wellington Road, had been in the hospital emergency room since Friday, awaiting an involuntary commitment to the New Hampshire Hospital. By Sunday night, he wanted to leave the locked psychiatric-examination area of the emergency room; on Monday, a patient described him as a wild man, police reported.
The attack comes as the state tries to grapple with a mental health system that critics say suffers from underfunding and bottlenecks, particularly at hospital emergency rooms. There, agitated patients can languish for days waiting for a bed to open at the 158-bed New Hampshire Hospital.
Although 12 new beds opened at the hospital in early June, the hospital waiting list was as high as 25 in the days before the Elliot attack, according to data supplied by the New Hampshire Hospital.
“We’re already at capacity,” said hospital Chief-Executive Robert J. MacLeod. He expects pressure will subside once other portions of a $24.7 million mental health improvement program are in place.
Meanwhile, Elliot Hospital is taking steps to staff the emergency department with a round-the-clock armed security guard, said Doug Dean, hospital president and chief-executive. An armed guard already staffs the emergency room on weekends.
“With the deluge of violence emerging in society, there is no way to eliminate the risk (of harm), only manage the potential,” he said. The effort was underway before Monday’s attack, he said.
Kinglocke faces a first-degree assault charge stemming from the attack on Don Wyman, a licensed nursing assistant who has been with Elliot for more than two decades, Dean said.
Wyman had prevented Kinglocke from leaving the hospital and drawn the patient’s ire, according to police reports. The second victim, Melissa Clermont, discovered Wyman face down on the floor in the secure area, with Kinglocke apparently trying to use Wyman’s employee ID/key card to exit the area. When Kinglocke saw Clermont, he allegedly punched her in the face, which knocked her to the ground, police said.
Authorities upgraded the charge for that assault to a felony, after discovering that the punch had broken Clermont’s cheekbone.
Kinglocke was arraigned Tuesday in Circuit Court-Manchester District Division on the felony charges. He appeared calm, smiling and waving his hands, despite cuffs, to relatives in the gallery. Court records say he suffered a “boxer’s” fracture to his right hand, an injury that can occur when delivering forceful punches.
At the request of Kinglocke’s lawyer, Judge William Lyons scheduled a competency hearing for June 10.
Wyman is undergoing treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Hospital security guards and medical staff told police Wyman was face down and unconscious when discovered late Monday morning.
A wound in his face was filling with blood, his eyes were swollen shut, and his respirations were similar to snoring, which signaled a potentially life-threatening situation.
In ER ‘too long’
Dean planned to meet with Wyman’s family later in the day. He said many of the hospital staff appeared traumatized Tuesday.
“They (Wyman and Clermont) are two of our best employees,” he said. “They come to work with the intention of helping people.”
He said Elliot has eight hospital beds that can handle involuntary commitments, but only the New Hampshire Hospital can treat patients who exhibit assaultive behavior toward others. He applauded the additional beds at New Hampshire Hospital, but said the system still lacks the capacity to address mental health properly.
“The period of time the patient was in our emergency room, it’s too long,” Dean said.
Dean said hospital workers restrain violent patients according to procedures devised by Elliot staff and Manchester Community Mental Health. He was unable to provide specifics.
“To my knowledge, every protocol was being followed,” Dean said. But he said the hospital will undertake a review of the attacks.
Police reports indicate that Wyman was alone with Kinglocke and another patient at the time of the attack.
At New Hampshire Hospital, workers are trained on how to restrain a patient, and a frequently used Code Gray automatically brings in campus police, who patrol the entire Hugh Gallen state office complex, MacLeod said.
The site of uniformed guards with batons, pepper spray and Tasers usually defuses the situation, MacLeod said. Workers are injured at times, but nothing to the level of Wyman’s injury, MacLeod said.
A timetable provided by the state Department of Health and Human Services calls for several programs to be implemented over the coming 12 months.
They include 10 psychiatric beds at Franklin Community Hospital, psychiatric residential treatment programs, foster care for people leaving the state hospital, housing subsidies, community treatment teams and drug-abuse counseling.
Over two years, $24.7 million will be spent, a number slightly lower than a previously reported, inaccurate number of $28 million.