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Elderly Non-Verbal Patient Died After Reportedly Being Left in 134-Degree Whirlpool at Care Facility

Four people were reportedly fired in connection with the Jan. 4 incident at Hopemont Hospital in Terra Alta

  • An elderly, non-verbal man died in January after he was left in scalding water at Hopemont Hospital in West Virginia

  • Disability Rights of West Virginia, which investigated the incident, reportedly said the victim was in the 134-degree water for at least 47 minutes

  • Four people connected to the incident no longer work for the care facility in Terra Alta, according to the West Virginia Department of Health Facilities

Four people have been fired from a state-run long-term care facility in West Virginia after an elderly man died in January when he was left in a scalding whirlpool.

The incident occurred on Jan. 4 when a thermostat for a water tank servicing one of the residential units at Hopemont Hospital in Terra Alta failed, “resulting in unsafe water temperatures,” according to a Jan. 5 news release from the West Virginia Department of Health Facilities.

One resident was later “treated for burns” following the “equipment malfunction,” DHF said in their release.

Disability Rights of West Virginia, which investigated the incident, said the water was about 134 degrees Fahrenheit when the victim entered the whirlpool, where he remained for at least 47 minutes, according to West Virginia Watch and CBS affiliate KDKA.

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Mike Folio, legal director for DRWV, told West Virginia Watch that the individual was “nonverbal” and had dementia. He said the victim’s "skin melted off" due to the hot water and claimed hospital staff were aware of the malfunction before the man’s death.

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“This is truly the most egregious case I’ve seen,” Folio noted, per the outlet.

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Two contracted staff members were “immediately removed” from the facility’s schedule in the wake of the incident, DHF said in its January news release.

Four nurses connected to the case "no longer work at Hopemont Hospital," DHF said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

Folio told KDKA that an employee had sent an internal email about the water heating issue about 30 days before the Jan. 4 incident.

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The email, he added, expressed concerns about people getting burned. “It's a system's failure, top to bottom,” Folio said.

Meanwhile, DHF Cabinet Secretary Michael J. Caruso has said “the safety of patients” at these hospitals “is of the utmost importance,” adding that the agency takes these kinds of incidents “very seriously.”

“Please be assured all patients are being cared for and we are committed to cooperating fully with law enforcement and all of the investigating agencies as this investigation continues,” Caruso said in DHF’s Jan. 5 news release.

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