State Moves to Close Dallas Psychiatric Hospital After Child Raped

Texas health officials are taking steps to close Timberlawn psychiatric hospital after a child said she was raped there.

The state's move to revoke Timberlawn's license, announced Friday, is one of the strongest steps it can take against health care facilities. The unusual effort speaks to Timberlawn's long history of safety problems — it was already the only psychiatric hospital on probation with the state.

"I think it was about time. If they're not going to correct their deficiencies, I don't know how you can leave it that way," said John MarDock, whose sister, Dr. Ruth MarDock, was killed in 2016 after being attacked by a patient.

Texas health officials said Friday that it would be up to Timberlawn and its owner, United Health Services, to transfer patients to other appropriate health facilities.

MarDock said his main concern is where the patients will go and whether they will get the quality care they need.

"There's a big patient population. I don't know where they go," he said. "Hopefully someone else will take it over and run it right. It's certainly a challenging problem."

In a letter to employees, Timberlawn's CEO said the hospital would shut down on its own due, in part, to a lack of patients and the cost of refurbishing the historic campus.

NBC 5's media partners at The Dallas Morning News reported in October that police were investigating the sexual assault of a 13-year-old by another patient. Government safety inspectors then swarmed the hospital.

MarDock's death was one of several blemishes on the hospital's safety record. In 2014 a patient who warned that she would take her own life died by suicide. In 2015 a patient said she was raped by another patient.

MarDock blamed his sister's death on the hospital's lack of security. Dr. Ruth MarDock had been a psychiatrist at Timberlawn for nearly 30 years.

"She knew everybody there. She was always good with people. It's easy to lame the murderer, but it shouldn't have been that free for him to roam the halls and get out of his room," her brother said.

In a statement to NBC 5 a Texas Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman said:

"Our focus has always been squarely on patient safety, and we have been holding Timberlawn accountable. That is our regulatory priority. Sometimes hospitals need to make business decisions based on their own circumstances and outlook moving forward."

MarDock said his family does not consider Timberlawn's closing as justice for Ruth.

"It's not going to make it right, just closing Timberlawn. It should have been corrected and she should have been able to go home that day," he said.

Read more from our partners at The Dallas Morning News.

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