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Investigator: Nurse's aide says abuse complaints ignored

9:41 AM, Jun 29, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- An employee at MetroHealth's nursing home said she reported potential abuse similar to the incidents that were captured by a hidden camera installed by a 78-year-old patient's son, but her complaints were repeatedly ignored by the facility's administrators.

"Many a time I've reported different things that didn't look right - scratches, bruises - and it's pretty much like 'I don't want to hear it,'" said the nurse's aide, who did not want to be identified because she feared reprisals from bosses. "You're considered a troublemaker."

A spokeswoman for Metrohealth said the hospital has no record of any employee coming forward with these complaints.  "We encourage our employees to report any inappropriate behavior and we will continue to do so," said Susan Christopher.  "We have steps in place to ensure patients are safe."

The employee came forward after Channel 3 News on Monday broadcast a number of videos captured by hidden camera that Steve Piskor installed in the room of his mother, Esther to prove she was being mistreated.

The videos show a nurse's aide abusing a patient as well as other possible mistreatment by additional employees at the Prentiss Center for Skilled Nursing Care on Cleveland's West Side. The footage has prompted both criminal and regulatory investigations.

"My heart breaks to see that happening like that," the nurse's aide said of the broadcast. "Everything I've seen is uncalled for."

Hospital officials have previously apologized for the incident and said they've hired an outside firm to investigate the incidents as well as the nursing home's policies and procedures to make sure the abuse doesn't happen again.

MetroHealth fired nurse's aides Virgen Caraballo and Giselle Nelson for inappropriate care after reviewing the videos and suspended nurse's aide Jamiescha Whitlow for five days for failing to report patient abuse she witnessed, officials said.

Job performance evaluations for Caraballo, who was charged with assaulting Esther Piskor, show that she received high marks in her evaluations, according a review of her personnel file obtained under the state Open Public Records Act.

In a February 2010 evaluation, supervisors said that Virgen Caraballo "maintains a safe environment for her residents" and that she is "very conscientious with the care she gives." A few months ago, a supervisor noted that Caraballo is "attentive to residents needs and very thorough."

Caraballo can be seen on the video striking the patient's face, violently throwing the patient into her bed and wheelchair, and pushing the patient's face into the wall. Caraballo has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Channel 3 News also learned that a nurse's aide who can be seen repeatedly spraying the patient in the face with an unknown liquid as she lay on the bed was recently named the nurse's aide of the year.

Christopher said the aide, who told investigators that the liquid as perfume, received the award based on nominations from residents, families and staff.

Meanwhile, another nurse's aide at the facility is a convicted felon who pleaded guilty to theft in 2008, court records show. The offense was committed by Jennifer Perkins after she was hired and underwent a criminal background check.

State law says that a nursing home cannot employ a caregiver who's been convicted of any one of 55 criminal offenses, including theft. 

The hospital said that it has done two background checks on Perkins since she was hired in 2005 and that it would be up to the state to remove an aide convicted of a crime from the state-tested nurse's aide registry.

Later, the hospital emailed Channel 3 News saying they confirmed Perkins was convicted of a felony in 2008.  "She was immediately removed from patient care and is on unpaid administrative leave," said Christopher.


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