Grievance arbitration reports have shed some light on the culture at Whiting Forensic Hospital. The reports, obtained by CII via FOIA request, contain revelations that even though 10 former employees of Whiting were arrested and dozens more terminated as a result of an investigation into abuse of patients, only four instances of failure to report abuse were disciplined between 2015 and 2020, with the most severe punishment being suspension. 

Manases Santiago, a Whiting employee for 17 years, grieved his termination with the union triggering an arbitration hearing. Santiago was fired by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) following an investigation into a whistleblower complaint of abuse at the hospital. During the investigation, Manases was seen on security camera footage witnessing the abuse of a patient, doing nothing to stop it, and ultimately never reporting the abuse, according to the report.

The failure to report abuse charges stems from two separate instances of abuse between March 5th and March 13th, 2017. Security camera footage was only available for February 27th to March 22nd, 2017, as the video collection system could only hold a finite amount of footage.

From Manases grievance arbitration

During the first instance, Santiago was assigned to a patient and watched while a nurse, Michael Presnick, performed a procedure on the patient. The patient struggled during the procedure and when it was completed Presnick removed his gloves and began throwing punches at the patient, not hitting the patient, but coming close enough to tease and antagonize, according to the report. 

Santiago admitted to seeing the interaction but said he believed that it was part of the medical procedure. Presnick has since been arrested, and charged with felony intentional cruelty for his role in abuse at the hospital, including allegedly grabbing a patient and spraying him in the face with “an aerosol-type spray.” 

In the second instance, Santiago relieved his coworker to serve a patient with Seth Quider, another Whiting employee. Santiago stood in the hallway with his coworker and watched as Quider prodded the patient into spilling a drink he was holding, then proceeded to rip the sheet off of the patient to humiliate him, according to the report. 

Santiago claimed he did not see the abuse take place, but the arbitrator found that the security camera footage clearly showed he clearly witnessed the incident and failed in his duty to report it as he was assigned to constant observation.

In Santiago’s defense, the union argued that his punishment was not consistent with how DMHAS has disciplined previous instances of failure to report abuse. The union said it obtained evidence via FOIA that DMHAS had only disciplined four instances of failure to report abuse from 2015 to 2020, and the harshest punishment was suspension.

Quider was arrested, and charged with six counts of cruelty to persons, and ultimately convicted for his role in the abuse of patients at Whiting Hospital.

Presnick had his charges dismissed without having to admit any guilt as part of a deal for cooperating in the prosecution of other Whiting employees. His nursing license has not been revoked but is currently suspended, according to the Department of Public Health website.

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Tom Hopkins wrote for CII from April 2022 to February 2023. Prior to joining CII, he worked in print, television, and as a freelance journalist.

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