10/19/06 — Workers will face patient beating charges

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Workers will face patient beating charges

By Lee Williams
Published in News on October 19, 2006 1:50 PM

Three Cherry Hospital employees face charges for allegedly beating a mentally ill patient and severely injuring him earlier this month.

James Allan Smith, 31, of U.S. 13; Eric Jerrod Isler, 29, of Bear Creek, LaGrange; and Billy Wynn, 36, of South Oleander Avenue; were arrested Tuesday on one count of patient abuse and neglect each, according to Cherry Hospital police officials.

The charges stem from allegations that the three employees struck a male patient in the face and back, breaking his nose and a rib, police said. The men were being held in the Wayne County Jail under $5,000 bond.

Cherry Hospital Director Dr. Jack St. Clair did not reveal what provoked the men to allegedly attack the man, but the director expressed deep concern regarding the incident.

"There was an incident here a few days ago involving an injury to a patient and it did involve three employees," St. Clair said. "We're always concerned about patient abuse and we are always concerned about protecting the safety of the patients."

St. Clair said the employees are still employed with the state-funded psychiatric hospital until the investigation into the alleged patient abuse case is complete.

St. Clair added the employees were sent home on an "investigatory leave with pay" on Oct. 3, but he would not specify when the alleged incident occurred. However, court officials reported that the alleged patient abuse case occurred on Oct. 3.

In addition to the criminal charges, St. Clair said his hospital staff has launched their own internal investigation. He said patient abuse will not be tolerated at the hospital that only serves mentally ill patients.

"Cherry Hospital has a zero tolerance for abuse and we plan to pursue this matter to the fullest extent that the law will allow," St. Clair said.

Cherry Hospital is a 284-bed inpatient psychiatric hospital that serves 33 eastern North Carolina counties. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services oversees the facility, according to the hospital's Web site.