Five severely retarded patients at the District's Forest Haven facility were burned last month when they were accidently bathed with a strong detergent.

Albert Russo, executive director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources, said the five men received first-degree burns on their faces when a supervisory nursing assistant mistakenly used "a cloth saturated with a strong detergent" to bathe them.

The incident occurred sometime between the evening of Oct. 20 and the next morning.

The Forest Haven employe was assisting the men with their baths. The employe inadvertently picked up a cloth that was resting on a canister on the bathtub, Russo said.

Without smelling the cloth, the nursing assistant applied the cloth to the faces of the residents. The cloth was saturated with a detergent used to clean toilet fixtures and the bathtub.

The five men were taken to the facility's infirmary after staff members noticed their faces "were quite red," Russo said.

Two of the patients spent a few days in the infirmary, he said.

"It was a most unfortunate and regrettable situation," Russo said.

The U.S. Park Police, which has jurisdiction at the facility because it is on federal property, investigated and found no evidence of criminal intent, Russo said.

Clifford Hubbard, acting superintendent at Forest Haven, said the employe has been reassigned to another area while the incident is reviewed. He said he expects some disciplinary action to be taken against the long-time employe.