Nicola Seahorn was working at Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute just north of Austin, Texas, when she saw video that showed an employee punching a patient in the face.

It was June 2018 and Seahorn, then the director of clinical services, had been at the facility for just a few months. But she was already worried about patient care.

So when she learned a male staffer had hit a young patient, Seahorn said she called state regulators.

Two weeks later, she was fired. Seahorn filed a whistleblower lawsuit that details the incident, and said she’d been axed for reporting the hospital to authorities.

“It was very clear I was not a team player,” she said.

Neither Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute nor its parent company, Signature Healthcare Services, responded to requests for comment. The hospital, a 118-bed private psychiatric facility in Williamson County, has undergone frequent leadership changes, having had at least four chief executive officers since 2014.

Seahorn’s lawsuit comes at a time when the five-year-old hospital is facing scrutiny by state regulators. The Health and Human Services Commission fined the hospital $180,000 earlier this month after officials say it failed to monitor patients appropriately, which allowed two patients to have sex. The penalty came shortly after the facility agreed to pay $62,500 for failing in 2016 to protect patients from being sexually and physically assaulted, not properly monitoring a suicidal person, and leaving a scalding hot water dispenser within reach of patients.

At the same time the state has been criticizing the hospital’s work, youth in Child Protective Services custody have been sent there. Since 2015, the Department of Family and Protective Services has paid the facility more than $1 million to care for foster kids.

The Texas whistleblower statute cited in Seahorn’s lawsuit bans employers at mental health facilities from disciplining, firing or otherwise punishing employees who report violations of state laws or rules.

Seahorn’s suit isn’t the first to be filed against Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute. In November 2017, a former employee sued the hospital, saying he was fired after he reported to management that staffers were mistreating patients. Lawyers for the case would not provide an update on the lawsuit, but public records indicate it may have been privately settled.

At least two other people have filed lawsuits against some of Signature’s other hospitals, claiming they were fired after reporting poor conditions at the facilities. A lawsuit against Aurora Behavioral Healthcare-Santa Rosa in California is ongoing.

A lawsuit at Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital in DeSoto was settled — but that wasn’t the end of its problems. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently threatened to pull federal money from the DeSoto facility because of medication administration issues, sex between underage patients and long waits for treatment.

The allegations against the Georgetown facility come at a time when other private psychiatric hospitals have also had troubles.

Sundance Behavioral Healthcare System closed three facilities in North Texas in December after a Tarrant County grand jury indicted the company for allegedly holding patients against their will. Timberlawn psychiatric hospital in Dallas closed in February 2018 after state regulators threatened to shut it down because of safety violations.

Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute offers acute inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care for adults and children in Central Texas, providing medication, group therapy and other services.

When the hospital opened in 2014, public officials welcomed the facility as a way to handle the ever-growing need for inpatient mental health care for people in crisis.

Texas psychiatric hospitals are inspected for health and safety violations by the Health and Human Services Commission. The agency can levy fines against hospitals.

In 2017, Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute was initially fined $170,000, but the state reduced it to $62,500. The hospital paid that, but, according to state documentation, admitted no fault or liability. The state penalized seven other private hospitals a combined $100,000, with the highest fine being $56,000.

Since its fine was levied in June 2017, the Georgetown hospital has continued to have problems. The state has cited it for numerous issues such as failing to appropriately monitor a patient who was making sexual advances toward other patients, failing to give patients medication, failing to keep refrigerators and other parts of the building clean, and not having enough registered nurses on duty. The hospital was also cited because its director of nursing was not a licensed registered nurse.

On Jan. 7, the state fined the hospital $180,000. According to state documents, two patients had sex in December 2017 after they were not monitored for two hours. The hospital then failed to do an analysis of the incident and come up with an action plan to avoid such problems in the future, the state claims. The hospital was also fined for, among other things, not getting a patient’s legally required consent for medication.

Seahorn — whose job was to supervise therapists, chaplains and other providers — said she started to worry about patient care shortly after she was hired in April 2018.

Seahorn claims in her lawsuit that the hospital pressured her to keep patients from leaving until the insurance money had maxed out; falsified medical records; did not properly treat patients with lice; and covered up assaults of patients. She also says that the hospital has a mold problem that affected her health and could potentially harm patients.

Seahorn, who has her master’s degree in social work, said she called the company’s corporate phone line to report the problems, but nothing was ever done.

Seahorn says another problem was that the mental health techs who monitor patients are not taught anything about psychiatric disorders. Consequently, she said, they don’t understand why patients are behaving the way they are and often don’t know how to interact with them.

On June 26, 2018, Seahorn was working at the hospital when the chief nurse called and told her that a mental health tech had punched a patient in the face, Seahorn said. Hospital video showed that the patient had hit the tech first, spurring the tech to react violently, she said.

Despite being struck himself, the employee never should have hit the patient, Seahorn said. Instead, she believes, he should have restrained the teen.

Seahorn says she immediately knew she had to report the incident to state regulators. But the move put her at odds with management, who laid all the blame at the feet of the patient and planned to let the tech continue working with clients, she said.

“They already made up their minds that they were going to protect this person,” Seahorn said.

After the state investigated the incident, Seahorn said, the tech was fired.

Seahorn’s lawsuit states that the chief executive officer at the time became upset that Seahorn did not speak to her before calling the state. In her lawsuit, Seahorn says the CEO called her, “enraged, demanding to know what Ms. Seahorn had done, to whom she had reported the incident, and who was coming to investigate her hospital.”

On July 10, Seahorn was fired. In her lawsuit, she said her boss told her, “I just don’t think this is the right fit. It’s a philosophy thing.”

Seahorn believes she was retaliated against for reporting the hospital to state regulators. She also says that racial discrimination played a role in her termination. Seahorn, who is African-American, said she was called racial slurs and replaced with an unqualified white person.

“She is doing this all for the right reasons,” said Colin Walsh, Seahorn’s lawyer. “She’s not looking for a windfall. She’s not looking to buy a house on the beach. She really wants to help these people.”