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Nursing Home Botched Warning Signs About Aide Accused of Sex Attack, State Says

Jun 16, 2003 | St. Louis Post Dispatch State inspectors say a staff member at a nursing home in Arnold stayed on the job after allegations of rape and beatings and a written warning from a supervisor that the nursing aide was a "danger to residents."

The inspectors, from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, interviewed staff and patients at Woodland Manor Nursing Center last month after the arrest of a nursing aide, James Aaron Campbell, 24, of Oakville. He was charged with molesting a male patient, 83.

The owners of Riley Spence Properties, a St. Louis company that owns the 140-bed Woodland Manor along with nursing homes in Eureka and Maryland Heights, say Campbell was fired for poor job performance days before the home and police were told of the alleged abuse by the patient's wife.

Officials at the home helped police apprehend Campbell by luring him back to the home to pick up his last paycheck, said company owners Charles J. Riley and Greg Spence.

The owners say they were shocked to learn that Campbell, who had been on the job less than six months, was accused of sexual abuse. The home had investigated residents' complaints of abuse involving Campbell before, but Riley and Spence said those claims did not seem credible.

Riley insists Woodland Manor's 132 residents are safe - so safe that his own mother, 97, lives there. He said nurses and aides lose their jobs if they yell at residents or use foul language, and "if we had the slightest idea that an employee might abuse a resident, he would have been fired immediately."

But state regulators say the home should have suspected Campbell and should have kept him away from residents while investigating earlier allegations of abuse. Last week, the state released a document that accuses the home of doing little to stop Campbell. According to the report called a Statement of Deficiencies - the home ignored allegations that Campbell:

Threw a plastic water bottle at a female resident after she rejected his sexual advances.

Beat another resident so severely that a nurse who later inspected the resident found "three skin tears on each of the resident's forearms as if someone grabbed (and restrained) the resident."

Raped a female patient, hit her in the face and said he "would teach the resident to be quiet."

Campbell has not been charged in any of these incidents, which are alleged to have taken place from February to April. Authorities say Campbell is charged in an incident that happened late last month.

The state report says Campbell frequently violated orders from supervisors that he stop working with female residents. It also quotes a disciplinary notice, dated May 17, in which a nurse wrote that Campbell is a "danger to residents."

Darrell Hendrickson, the state's top nursing home regulator, said, "If the nursing home has reason to believe an allegation is credible, they're mandated by statute to call us." He added, "That doesn't appear to have happened at Woodland Manor."

Hendrickson is recommending sanctions that would force the home to pay more than $250,000 in fines and, if it doesn't reform its abuse policies, lose Medicare and Medicaid eligibility. Those sanctions must be approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is reviewing the case.

"We felt we did adequate investigations, but in the state's eyes they weren't adequate enough," Spence said. "We're not going to fight them. We're going to raise the bar."

Riley and Spence still question the earlier claims of abuse. They said that the resident who complained of rape showed no physical signs of mistreatment and that at least two of the residents who made allegations suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

They also say the warning that Campbell is a "danger to residents" was taken out of context. They say Campbell was believed to be a danger because he neglected duties and ignored orders, for which he was later fired.

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