State to Shut Down Psychiatric Hospital Over Suspicions of Patient Abuse, Cover-up

Dozens of Neveh Yaakov's management, employees arrested following a year-long probe, uncovering suspected sexual assault, as well as attempts to cover up abuse.

The Health Ministry has decided to close the Neveh Ya'akov psychiatric hospital on Thursday, after police arrested dozens of staff members over suspected sexual and physical abuse, the culmination of a year-long investigation.

Thirteen of the 70 staff members arrested in the large-scale operation on Wednesday were brought before a judge for a detention hearing

One staff member, an orderly, was suspected of sexual assault. The remaining 12, including two of the facility's owners, three nurses and seven other orderlies, were suspected of neglecting, assaulting or abusing vulnerable persons.

On Thursday, the Health Ministry announced its intention to shut down the privately owned psychiatric hospital, electing to transfer its patients to alternate institutions.

However, a senior ministry official indicated that the move would be gradual, since the patients in question suffered from severe psychiatric conditions.

Already on Wednesday, the Health Ministry took over the everyday running of the institution, after its mangers and staff were apprehended in the police operation. Teams originating in the six public psychiatric hospitals will tend to Neveh Yaakov's patients until they are moved to a permanent setting.  
Speaking of the arrests on Wednesday, police said the operation came after a year-long undercover probe that began after Health Ministry officials reported that some of the patients had been admitted to general hospitals with severe injuries typical of assault.

Additional information came from former Neveh Yaakov hospital employees. In October 2011 police investigated a former employee's complaints of sexual harassment. Police officials say the Health Ministry was informed of this investigation.

The ministry weighed closing the hospital six months ago in the wake of claims of abuse by staff members, but decided to allow it to remain open with more frequent visits by inspectors and a recovery plan put in place.

Two weeks ago, after another complaint alleging violence was filed, following consultations between Health Ministry director-general Dr. Roni Gamzu and police, dozens of members of the hospital's staff were summoned for police questioning.

Ministry officials said they heard of the abuse complaints in April, after which it was decided to step up supervision but not close the hospital. Officials said ministry inspectors made 20 visits to the facility in the past year.