03/31/11 — Worker charged in case at Skill Creations

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Worker charged in case at Skill Creations

By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 31, 2011 1:46 PM

A Goldsboro woman is facing a misdemeanor child abuse charge despite the fact that state social services investigators found she was not at fault.

Mable Lee Williams, 58, of Goldsboro, was charged by Goldsboro police after she lost control of a wheelchair carrying a disabled child at Skill Creations in October.

Mrs. Williams was pushing the 5-year-old girl up an incline when she lost control of the wheelchair and the child fell, hitting her head on the concrete hard enough to cause a laceration and sending her to the hospital for treatment.

Mrs. Williams was fired for the mishap.

After an investigation by the state Department of Health and Human Services, state officials issued a statement saying the business, not Mrs. Williams, was at fault.

"The facility did not supply the wheelchair safety training and, therefore, the staff did not exhibit the competency needed and could not care for that client. Ultimately, the facility is culpable because they did not provide that training."

Mrs. Williams said she had cared for the child several times a week for nearly six months before the incident, and that she had pushed the child up the ramp on many occasions.

"I did what I did every day. I really, truly don't understand why they are doing this. It was not intentional," Mrs. Williams said. "It was too heavy. I just wasn't able to control it to keep it from rolling back."

Mrs. Williams said she does not understand why Goldsboro police have charged her and why she lost her job.

"I don't see where I abused that child," she said.

In a letter, Paul Hackmann, chief executive officer of Skill Creations, said that "in this case, we were provided with a demonstration of the child in the wheelchair with all of its safety features in use. The chair could not tip over, nor could the child's head hit the concrete as it did when all the safety features were in use. Therefore, not all efforts were made to prevent the accident, which by our policies requires employment termination."

The wheelchair was equipped with anti-tipping mechanisms that Mrs. Williams said she had used on other occasions, but the incident occurred too quickly for her to activate the safety mechanisms.

According to state documents, the state's investigation identified deficiencies at Skill Creations in areas of "governing body policy of staff training" and "staff competency."

"Based on observations, interviews, and record reviews, the facility failed to develop and implement a policy for areas in which staff received training and education, including wheelchair safety ...."

Skill Creations was notified by the state in November that it was required to develop a plan of correction that addressed each deficiency outlined by the state.

Sgt. Dwayne Dean of the Goldsboro Police Department, said the police investigation remains independent of whatever investigative actions that might have been taken by the state.

"What the state does is totally separate from what we do," Dean said. "If there is probable cause found, a warrant is issued."

Mrs. Williams' first appearance in Wayne District Court is scheduled for April 12.