City Investigates Unsanitary Claims at KGH (1919)

Grave Charges Made Against Hospital Nurses

Conditions at Knoxville Institution Investigated by City Board

Knoxville, Tenn., April 24. — Charges that conditions at the Knoxville General Hospital are unsanitary, that regulations of the institution are not adequate to determine the nature of diseases from which patients were found suffering, and that conduct of some of the nurses in the nurses’ home is open to severe criticism were read at the regular meeting of the City Commission Tuesday night by L. C. Ely, an attorney.

While the statement was unsigned, Mr. Ely said it had been left with him by Mrs. A. H. Dailey, and that he personally had interviewed sufficient witnesses to know that the charges were true, and could be proven in any court before a fair jury.

Commissioner James G. Crumbliss, who, as head of the department of parks and public property, has charge of the hospitals, declared that he did not believe the charges true, but wished to insist on a full investigation.

Mayor John E. McMilln [sic] urged an investigation, and Mr. Ely was instructed to refer the charges in affidavit form, and the commission would order a hearing and probe the entire matter to the bottom.

Mr. Ely declared that he would produce the affidavits and all the evidence necessary, and that all he and the ladies accompanying him asked was an investigation and an opportunity to substantiate the allegations.  He went into detail regarding some matters and said some of the nurses were “flirting with the physicians,” and that he could name the physicians if the commission desired it, but preferred to wait until those accused could be present.

Today Mr. Ely filed signed charges with the commission, and the Mayor has declared for an investigation.  The most serious charges are complaints made by residents of the neighborhood that the conduct of some of the nurses in the nurses’ home is open to severe criticism.

It is known to be a fact that patients have been given a double dose of opiates so that the nurse in charge might leave the hospital to attend a dance, and it is also known that at least one patient has been allowed to die without having received the attention of a physician.

“We therefore respectfully ask that you at once take steps to remedy all these unfavorable conditions, by providing for the daily incineration of the hospital refuse, by enacting such regulations as shall provide for a thorough and complete examination of patients, by providing a housemother for the nurses, who shall be a gentle woman of Christian character, capable of restraining the indiscretions of the nurses and by providing competent supervision for the departments of our city hospitals.”

Source:  Nashville Tennessean and American, April 25, 1919, page 8

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