Federal team involved with Cherry Hospital investigation

August 27, 2008 4:17:27 PM PDT
A federal team is in Glodsboro investigating Cherry Hospital after accusations of assaults on patients and a patient death. Click here to view the federal investigation's Cherry Hospital survey and the state's plan of correction.

It is one in a string of incidents that federal investigators say put patients in immediate jeopardy.

The feds are inspecting Cherry Hospital where the abuse took place and where a patient died after being left unattended in a chair for 22 hours.

A team federal inspectors are going over every inch of Cherry Hospital to see if the correction plan the state just put in place is good enough to keep patients safe.

On April 28, security camera video posted on the popular website YouTube shows a patient taunting staff.

The teen bites the doctor's arm who tries to stop him; he hits the patient who falls to the floor.

That night 50-year-old patient Steven Sabock choked on his medicine after doctors ordered nurses to monitor him every 15 minutes.

According to a federal investigation by the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, he was left sitting in a chair for 22 hours and 34 minutes. Reportedly he was never fed or taken to the restroom.

The incident was recorded by a security video camera that showed hospital staff watching television and playing cards in the same room as Sabock.

"Mr. Sabock's death was indeed tragic. He actually died of a pre-existing heart condition, however it was decided during the investigation that he had not received the proper care at all," NC DHHS Spokesperson Tom Lawrence said.

Video of that neglect has yet to be released, but the ward is shut down while federal investigators continue their work.

Last week the State Department of Health and Human Services submitted its plan of correction --at the same time officers arrested two health-care technicians for hitting another patient.

Taniko Dominique Upton and William Kenneth Johnson were charged Friday with simple assault on a handicapped person, which is a misdemeanor. Upton is accused of knocking a male patient to the floor then kicking and punching him. Johnson is accused of holding the man during the initial assault and then joining Upton in the beating, according to arrest warrants.

"Is this embarrassing? Certainly it is ? as I said, it's unforgiveable and we're not going to let this happen," Lawrence said. "That's why we're working extremely hard to make sure this doesn't happen again."

So far 15 employees disciplined, one resigned. The doctor in the video is still practicing after a brief suspension.

The Wayne County district attorney asked the SBI to investigate abuse and neglect at Cherry Hospital too.

Federal inspectors have until Sept. 1 to determine whether the hospital should stay open or lose its federal money to take care of patients.


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