12/16/08 — More Cherry investigations under way

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More Cherry investigations under way

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 16, 2008 1:46 PM

Cherry Hospital's woes continue as two incidents of violence have been reported and at least four nurses are being investigated by the N.C. Board of Nursing.

According to documents released Monday from the Department of Health and Human Services, a 65-year-old nurse was beaten and choked by a male patient on Dec. 9, while last month a 37-year-old health care technician allegedly assaulted a patient and has been arrested.

Brenda M. Johnson, employed by Supplemental Health Care of Raleigh, was working as a temporary employee at Cherry on Dec. 9, when the "assault by strangulation" occurred around 8:25 p.m. in the U-2 building. According to the hospital's incident report, the male patient transferred from Lenoir County, where he had been jailed on assault charges.

A patient "jumped out of his chair and lunged forward and attacked agency nurse by trying to choke her," the report said. According to the narrative, a witness intervened.

"The assault took place in front of the nurse's station in the U-2 building on 2 East," the report stated, adding that the attack was "unprovoked and there had been other incidences earlier in the day (with the patient)."

Mrs. Johnson was taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital for treatment and was later released.

The report indicated that the patient was unwilling to talk with police afterwards and was given medication to calm him down. Officials said he was a "detainor" from Lenoir County Sheriff's Office, where he faced two counts of malicious conduct by prisoner, two counts of assault on government official/employee and injury to personal property.

Mrs. Johnson's son, Scott, an officer with Greenville Police Department, was also notified and indicated he planned to accompany his mother to the magistrate's office, where charges of felony assault of strangulation would be filed.

The other case occurred Nov. 17, with conflicting reports of the details. On Dec. 3, Shelia Y. Lane was arrested and charged with assault and battery on a handicapped person, a misdemeanor.

The assault happened in the U-2 building, according to the hospital's incident report, around 11:38 a.m. The report said an anonymous call came in to Patient Advocate Lori Henderson alleging Ms. Lane pushed a female patient to the floor in front of an elevator.

In Ms. Lane's version of the incident, she reported the "patient was determined to get on the elevator. Staff escorted her off the elevator and patient fell to the floor on her own."

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the case of a patient who died in April after being neglected on a ward for nearly 22 hours.

The N.C. Board of Nursing is investigating at least four nurses affiliated with the case -- who have since either resigned, retired or were fired.

Time cards and other documents have been requested for nurses Latasha Greenfield, Aimee Clark and Catherine Carraway and licensed practical nurse Susan Watson.

Tom Lawrence, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said his office was unaware of the investigation.

"We didn't know anything at all about this," he said this morning. "We're trying to get to the bottom of it, too. ... We have got to get with our attorney and see what she knows about this."

Attempts to reach the N.C. Board of Nursing were unsuccessful.