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Lawsuit alleges unsanitary conditions at two DMC hospitals; blames focus on profits, not patients

Two former cleaning staff members have sued Detroit Medical Center and its Texas-based owner, Tenet Healthcare.

Denise Bonds and Shenesia Rhodes allege they were fired for complaining about unsanitary and unsafe conditions at Hutzel and Harper Hospitals, as well as a dearth of cleaning supplies necessary to do their jobs.

The lawsuit includes photos of dried blood on operating room beds, empty cleaning supply storerooms, spilled blood on a utility room floor, rusted water fountains, and falling ceiling tiles.

Bonds and Rhodes are also suing the cleaning firm contractor that employed them. They say once Crothall Healthcare took over the DMC cleaning contract, adequate cleaning supplies became a thing of the past. The lawsuit alleges they were told to use only five cleaning rags per 28 hospital rooms.

Azzam Elder is co-counsel for the two plaintiffs. He said his clients' pleas to administrators to correct the deficiencies resulted in retaliation.

The plaintiffs "were so disturbed that the patients are going into operating rooms that are unsanitary and these sort of shocking conditions in an American hospital, and in the end, their complaints, instead of them being appreciated, it got them fired," he said.

Elder said the lawsuit is just the latest example of DMC's Texas-based owner putting profits over patient safety.

In 2019, Tenet was sued by two Harper-Hutzel cardiologists who were fired by DMC after complaining that the company was engaged in reckless cost-cutting, which was putting patients' lives at risk.

Tenet was ordered to pay more than $10 million to the doctors and reinstate them.

In 2020, the DMC Legacy Board issued a report that found Tenet was failing to invest in the hospital system's infrastructure as it had promised to do when it acquired DMC.

"If you look at the way they're running the hospital, they're acting like slumlords," Elder said. "All they care about is not spending money, because those profits leave the city of Detroit, and go all the way to Dallas."

Detroit Medical Center declined to comment, and Tenet Healthcare did not respond to a request for comment.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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