Nursing Home Abuse Plea Agreement Leaves Civil Action On the Table

Following up on a story I first wrote about last fall, a former nursing home assistant accused of repeated sexual assaults on his elderly patients will be going to jail for 25 years, according to The Oregonian. The newspaper reports that the man, who has been held in the Washington County jail since his arrest last September, pled guilty to two of the 28 sex crime charges against him.

The newspaper reports that the plea agreement is “global” – meaning that the defendant “won’t be indicted on the Multnomah County allegations” that have been made against him. After his initial arrest which focused on the alleged abuse of seven patients at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center five more people came forward with accounts of being abused by the same man while he was working at the West Hills Health and Rehabilitation Center in Portland between 2014 and 2016.

While it is satisfying to see some measure of justice done in this case, it has to be noted that the criminal plea agreement does not answer all of the serious legal issues this case raises. Under ORS 678.725 nursing home employees have a duty to report inappropriate conduct on the part of colleagues.

It is essential, therefore, that investigation of this incident not stop until we have a far clearer idea of what the man’s supervisors and colleagues knew or should have reasonably inferred from his conduct on the job. The fact that he worked for two years at West Hills – where five former colleagues and patients have now accused him of sexual abuse – before being hired into a patient care position at Providence St. Vincent raises difficult questions about both the reporting systems at his first employer and the vetting procedures for new employees at his second.

The links below offer some essential resources for Oregonians seeking a better sense of their legal rights and of the responsibilities a nursing home or other long-term care facility has toward its patients. As a Portland attorney concerned with nursing home safety and patient abuse I urge everyone who is either planning to enter a facility or who may soon have a loved one undergoing long-term care to familiarize themselves with these. In particular, the state government offers a useful link (click here) to a database of complaints filed against licensed long-term care facilities around the state. Searching this and becoming familiar with the background of a facility should be an important element of any decision to choose a particular facility for oneself or a loved one.

It may never be possible to end elder abuse entirely, but it is important to realize that both our court system and the resources offered by the state government, some of them linked in this blog, offer all of us powerful tools to fight it.

 

The Oregonian: Former St. Vincent nursing assistant accused of sex abuse enters plea for 25 years in prison

Resources:

Oregon Public Guardian: Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Oregon Department of Human Services: Reporting Neglect & Abuse

Oregon Department of Justice: Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Rights and Abuse Prevention