Investigator: MetroHealth kicking out abuse victim

10:51 PM, Jul 25, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND - MetroHealth Medical Center's nursing home is giving the boot to a 78-year-old resident whose son installed a hidden camera that captured numerous instances of abuse by nurses' aides at the county-funded facility.

The decision comes as a county grand jury indicted two nurses' aides for patient abuse at MetroHealth's Prentiss Center for Skilled Nursing Care.

Virgen Caraballo faces 13 counts of patient abuse while Maria Karban -- recently voted nurse's aide of the year at the facility -- faces one count.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health again cited MetroHealth's Prentiss Center for the abuse of resident Esther Piskor.

Read state Department of Health citings

An investigation released last week noted that five nurses' aides physically abused and intimidated her and that their presence in the unit put other residents at risk. 

Among other things, the state cited the facility for not having a policy that "ensured the protection of residents" from abuse and for not properly training nurse's aides on how to care for Esther Piskor.

MetroHealth has already fired three nurse's aides and disciplined five others as a result of the videos, according to records obtained under the state's Open Public Records Act.

It has also hired an outside agency to provide 24-hour security for Esther Piskor after her son, Steve, continued to raise questions about her safety.

Despite those measures, the facility is transferring Esther Piskor to another nursing home "in order to ensure her safety and welfare," MetroHealth spokeswoman Susan Christopher wrote in an email.

Steve Piskor said the move is retaliation for refusing to remove the hidden camera that he installed after administrators at the Prentiss Center for Skilled Nursing Care ignored his suspicions of abuse. MetroHealth says the camera is a violation of its policies.

"My mother is the victim," Steve Piskor said. "She's not the problem. Metro wants to make it out like she's the problem."

The family's lawyer said he was also told by MetroHealth that Esther Piskor, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, was becoming "too much of a financial burden."

Steve Piskor said it would be too difficult on his mother to be transferred to another nursing home. Instead, he said, MetroHealth should stop the abuse and poor treatment.

The move comes as a Cleveland woman tells Channel 3 News that she complained to nursing home supervisors more than a year ago that she witnessed an aide treat Esther Piskor with questionable care.

Jacklyn Lauren was visiting with her father in the facility's dining area when she saw a nurse's aide continually push food into Esther Piskor's mouth during lunch even though she hadn't finished chewing the last bite. Esther Piskor has a difficult time eating and requires special care during meals, her family said.

The nurse's aide later came over to Lauren and said she wished Esther Piskor "would die," Lauren said. "She was trying to talk to me like we were friends and she said ... 'God, I hate that woman. I wish that woman would die.'  She used profanity with the situation," according to Lauren.

Lauren said she reported the abuse to the head nurse, but it was ignored. MetroHealth, however, said there is no evidence to support Lauren's claim.

Since Channel 3 first broadcast its story about the abuse, the nursing home has conducted mandatory training on sensitivity and patient care for all employees.

One resident had told state investigators that "she had been treated roughly and staff had been rude to her." She refused, however, to tell investigators who the staff member was.  

MetroHealth has also removed a sign posted by a union that represents staff at the Prentiss Center warning union employees that "if you assist management with statements or other information to adversely affect the union or its members, you may have charges filed against you," according to the state investigation.

It continued by saying that members should "please refrain from implicating your brothers and sisters for management" and that bad "employees will eventually hang themselves without any extra help from us."

The union president told investigators "the message was not meant to deter staff from reporting co-workers."

Steve Piskor said the steps taken by MetroHealth "are far too late. The damage has already been done.

"I say it's not a training problem," he said. "It's an administration problem.  It's something that should have been watched more closely."


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