Nurse attacked, brutally beaten by Elgin Mental Health Center patient

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Thursday, August 5, 2021
Nurse brutally beaten by patient at Elgin Mental Health Center
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Days before a horrifying attack on a nurse, a complaint was filed alleging unsafe work conditions at a state-run psychiatric facility.

ELGIN, Ill. (WLS) -- An 18-year-old man is charged with attempted first-degree murder in the attack of a nurse at the Elgin Mental Health Center.

Travis Turner is accused of brutally beating the nurse several weeks ago while he was a patient at the facility.

According to authorities, 46-year-old nurse Rinah Ortega was alone in a room processing Turner as a new patient at the state-run facility when the attack occurred on July 17.

Some healthcare experts claim it's an occurrence so common in hospitals that there is a name for it: Code Grey.

The ABC7 I-Team has learned that just days before the attack, a complaint was filed alleging unsafe work conditions at the facility.

Pat Meade, the president of the Illinois Nurses Association, said short staffing is a scary issue and a problem at many hospitals.

"That's one of our biggest fears, is that, what if something happens when we are alone in the room with the patient," Meade said.

Authorities claim the 6-foot-3-inch Turner, who is 196 pounds, began attacking the petite-size nurse who was registering him into the system. Ortega was severely beaten, with injuries to her face, skull and upper body.

Prosecutors have charged Turner with attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery.

Kane County State's Attorney Jamie Mosser said filing charges was the right decision.

"In this particular case, we cannot just, we cannot only look at the fact that it's a person at a mental health facility," Mosser said. "We have to look at the totality of the circumstances and for us, especially because she received these injuries that were life-threatening, it was important to us that we bring the charges that fit this crime."

Nurse Ortega is still hospitalized with critical wounds.

"What he did on that day was a crime, he battered a nurse and he did so to the point where she could have lost her life as a result of that and the response, the necessary response in my opinion, is exactly what we did by filing charges," said Mosser.

Two days before the beating attack, a nursing grievance was filed at the Elgin Mental Health Center demanding that unsafe conditions due to understaffing cease. It also noted the specific need for one extra nurse to be present at all work stations.

The I-Team was first alerted to this case by other employees at Elgin, who said they were outraged by what happened and how it happened.

"Somebody's got to listen to us. Somebody has to see us as real people with real lives and families that we want to go back home to, and if we're not able to be safe and be kept safe and walk into your job and know that there is enough security, there is enough nursing staff, to protect us," said Meade.

Turner is being held on a $500,000 bond. Under an Illinois law protecting nurses, the charge against him was upgraded because the victim was a nurse.

The Elgin Mental Health Center is operated by the State of Illinois. In a statement, officials at the Illinois Department of Human Services say they're "deeply saddened" and trying to determine how it occurred and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.