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Vieceli v. Ill. Civil Service Com.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. RAYMOND K. BERG, Judge, presiding.


On January 16, 1975, the Civil Service Commission entered a decision discharging Jo Ann T. Vieceli from her position as a "Nurse V" with the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. Vieceli subsequently filed a complaint for administrative review, pursuant to the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.) in the Circuit Court of Cook County, seeking a reversal of the commission's determination. The circuit court reversed the decision of the commission. The commission now appeals the court's order.

The discharge proceedings brought by the department against Vieceli arose out of a series of events which took place at the female adolescent unit, referred to as CW 15, at the Chicago-Read Mental Health Center during the period of March 22 to March 24, 1974. On the morning of March 22, a disturbance occurred at the unit, during which the patients at the unit damaged the facilities. To regain order, six of the patients were restrained to their beds. At the time they were restrained, the beds did not have mattresses on them and some of the girls were not provided with pillows. By 4 p.m. that afternoon, five of the girls had been released from the restraints; the sixth patient was restrained on the bed until the afternoon of Sunday, March 24, 1974.

The written charges presented to Vieceli, which were the basis for an action for discharge, were described in the following terms:

"Willful mistreatment of patients in violation of Department of Mental Health Rules 12.02 and 4.02; Department of Mental Health Rules and Regulations, and Read Chicago State Rules and Regulations, page 2, No. 5 to wit:

You had a female patient placed in restraints from approximately 8:30 A.M. Friday, March 22, 1974, until approximately 5 P.M. Sunday, March 24, 1974, CW 15 with only two valid restraint orders on file.

On March 22, 1974, under your supervision, six female patients were restrained for periods up to and in excess of six (6) hours on bare bed frames with no mattresses or pillows."

Rule 12.02 governs the use of restraints in department facilities. Under this rule, restraints are to be employed only as a means of preventing a patient from injuring himself or another patient and not as a means of punishment. They are generally to be applied only pursuant to a written prescription signed by a physician who has personally examined the patient and has concluded that such restraints are justified. A patient may be restrained without a written order if an emergency situation exists and a physician is not immediately available. However, in such case, a written prescription is to be obtained as "quickly as possible, and in no event later than a maximum of eight hours after the initial application of such emergency restraints." A patient may be restrained during all or part of one 24-hour period, but once restraints have been applied during such a period, they cannot be applied to that patient for the "two next following calendar days" without the written consent of the facility superintendent. Under the rule the superintendent is required to review all restraint orders daily. Moreover, the rule specifically provides:

"* * * It is the responsibility of the facility superintendent to insure that this rule is complied with."

Rule 4.02 defines the mistreatment of patients. Included within this definition is the following conduct:

"4. Any willful failure to respond to a patient's obvious needs or to provide the supervision and care he should have.

5. Infliction of any other mental or physical abuse."

At Vieceli's request, a hearing on the charges was held. After both parties rested, the commission, with one commissioner dissenting, permitted the charges to be amended to read as follows:

"Negligence of duty, in that you were, on March 22, 1974 through March 24, 1974, the Unit Chief of Ward CW 15 located at Chicago-Read Mental Health Center. As Unit Chief on those dates you were supervisor of, and responsible for, the care and treatment of all patients within the ward. On Friday, March 22, 1974 a female patient was placed in restraints where she remained, almost continuously, until Sunday, March 24, 1974, with only two (2) valid restraint ...

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