08/28/08 — Three Cherry workers are fired in abuse case

View Archive

Three Cherry workers are fired in abuse case

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 28, 2008 1:42 PM

Three Cherry Hospital workers were reportedly fired Wednesday and another told not to return to work, stemming from the beating of a patient last week.

Two of the fired workers were arrested on Friday and charged with simple assault on a handicapped person, a misdemeanor. They were health care technicians Taniko Dominique Upton, 33, and William Kenneth Johnson, 52, both of Goldsboro.

The third person fired was a nurse, and the remaining staff member was a part-time employee, said Tom Lawrence, public affairs director with the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We don't have a report on it," he said, but could confirm that "they were told not to come back."

Lawrence said a letter of dismissal had been given to each staffer on Wednesday following disciplinary hearings.

Citing personnel constraints, he declined to give a reason for the firings, other than to say that they all related to the recent patient assault.

The State Bureau of Investigation is currently on-site at Cherry conducting its own investigation into recent events, which include the death of a 50-year-old patient who died after choking on medication and then being left virtually unattended for 22 hours.

A team of 10 state officials -- working on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid -- also arrived at the hospital about midday Tuesday, officials confirmed. Their role is to assess the overall situation, which includes the hospital's immediate jeopardy status regarding its federal funding, as well as its plan of corrective action.

"As far as I know our team is still down there," Lawrence said this morning.

He was uncertain when the team would complete its findings, particularly with the upcoming Labor Day holiday on Monday, but was optimistic it would be in the next few days.