“I crawled under a coffee table and put up my hands to protect myself,” Sweeney continued. “He broke my eye socket and my skull. He hit me all over my body, and nobody came to help except for one male patient who moved between him and the coffee table to protect me. It seemed an eternity before anybody came to help. How could it be that nobody at the nurse’s station heard the attack and me screaming at the top of my lungs?”
After winning the civil award last week, Sweeney now plans to sue Franklin Hospital and its network, the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, claiming they failed to protect workers.
Oakes got out of prison on parole in December 2009, she said, after serving time for weapons possession and assault. He had previously attacked members of the hospital staff, and Sweeney believes that he was not targeting her specifically, but rather staff members in general. She said that security personnel were two floors away, and did not have the key for the locked unit in which she was attacked.
Sweeney added that hospital staffers told the facility’s administration that Oakes needed to be under more security, but they turned a deaf ear. “This was somebody that they knew was violent toward the workers,” Schlitt said. “Nothing was done to address that issue.”
Five days after the attack, the hospital staff, along with the New York State Nurses Association, held a rally outside the facility, calling for an end to workplace violence. Speakers included hospital administrators.
“The leadership of Franklin Hospital and the North Shore-LIJ Health System was outraged by the attack on Ms. Sweeney, and we continue to be sympathetic to her plight,” said Alexandria Zendrian, a spokeswoman for North Shore-LIJ. “Because of the unpredictability of their behavior, working with psychiatric patients can be hazardous, but the hospital and the health system believe that all reasonable steps have been taken to safeguard employees.”