A St. Elizabeth Hospital mental patient walked off the institution ground recently, wandered unattended into a Howard University Hospital ward and slashed a 6-week-old baby on the head with a razor blade before hospital workers noticed the woman and had her arrested.
The infant, Shaun Livesay, who was born at the hospital on Dec. 20, was found in his crib with a laceration from the top of his head to his forehead. A staff doctor immidiately sewed the wound with five stitches and Shaun survived the Feb. 7 attack.
"We're totally shocked," said Margaret Livesay, the baby's mother. "We felt he was very safe there. She [the mental patient] could just as easily have slit the baby's throat."
Livesay and Eric (Toni) Brown, the baby's father, claim the hospital failed to properly monitor the infant, waited several hours to inform them of the injury and then refused for two days to tell them in detail what had happened. Howard has denied the charges.
As a result of the incident, however, the hospital said yesterday it has implemented a "visitor control policy" to screen visitors to the hospital's patient wards.
A St. Elizabeths spokesman said yesterday that the mental patient, 29-year-old Veronica Moye, had privileges allowing her to walk St. Elizabeth's ground in Southeast Washington, but had left the federal institution for the mentally ill without authorization.
Moye made her way across town to the Howard University Hospital, located at 2041 Georgia Ave. NW, and, shortly before 5 p.m., entered the baby's sixth floor room in the hospital's pediatric ward, police said.
The baby, who was in a crib at the time of the assult, had been admitted to the hospital several days earlier with a mild case of pneumonia, according to his parents.
According to police records, Moye used a razor blade to cut the baby's head. Moye then went to a nearby nurses' station and stated that she had dropped a baby on its head. Shaun was found in his crib and was immediately treated by a staff doctor. The boy was discharged from the hospital Feb. 9, but still has a wound on his head.
Moye was charged by police with assult with a dangerous weapon after she made further statements about the incident, and handed over the razor blade, police said. There was no indication that the woman was related to or knew the victim, or how she had made her way to Howard from St. Elizabeths, which is located at 2700 Martin Luther King Ave. SE.
Shaun's parents claim that a camera in the baby's room was not being monitored at the nurse's station as it should have been, and that hospital officials at first said only that the boy had sustained a minor cut on his forehead. The parents said they did not get a full explanation until two days after the incident.
The baby's mother said she was told by a hospital staff member that Howard University Hospital "is a public institution and cannot prevent anyone from coming in."
Howard spokesman Alan Hermesch said yesterday that the hospital informed the family promptly, and that the hospital's policy is to monitor room cameras constantly. However, he declined to comment on whether the cameras in Shaun's room were operating at the time of the incident.
A St. Elizabeths spokesman said Moye had been a periodic patient at St. Elizabeths since 1976. A year ago, a D.C. Superior Court judge declared her incompetent to stand trial in another case.
"She was thought to be making slow but steady progress," the spokesman said. Moye was permitted to leave the institution Monday through Friday on her own to attend a community reentry program, but not to leave on a Saturday, the day of the incident. Moye was ordered held on $5,000 bond on the assult charge and was referred back to St. Elizabeths for a competency examination.
Shaun's parents say that the baby now cries more often than before and seems more nervous. "I won't ever trust anyone around him unless I know them inside and out," Shaun's father said.