Hospital Accused of Drugging Old Folks|For the Convenience of the Staff

     BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) – A Kern Valley Hospital administrator let her staff “forcibly sedate” old people who argued, were noisy or disruptive, for the staff’s “own convenience,” killing three patients in the process, Attorney General Jerry Brown said.

     Nursing director Gwen Hughes ordered two patients “held down and forcibly given injections” and Hospital Administrator Pamela Ott “was informed of these actions and allowed them to continue,” Brown said Tuesday in a statement.
     “These actions are alleged to have resulted in the deaths of three nursing home residents,” Brown’s statement said.
     The attorney general’s office claims that Hughes ordered hospital pharmacist Debbi Hayes to fill prescriptions for psychotropic mediations without a doctor’s approval, and Hayes did so.
     An ombudsman reported to the California Department of Public Health in January 2007 that staff at the Kern Valley skilled nursing facility were holding down patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and forcibly injecting them with psychotropic medication. Doctors from the Health Department determined that 22 patients were being given high doses of medication not used for treating their illnesses, Attorney General Brown’s office said.
     The medication was given so that patients who argued about their treatment, were noisy or otherwise disruptive would be sedated and easier to deal with.
     Three former members of Kern Valley Healthcare District were charged in February: Hughes, Hayes, and Dr. Hoshang Pormir, a staff physician.
     Some patients suffered medical complications from the drugging, including lethargy and inability to eat or drink properly, Brown’s office said. A search warrant was served in August 2008 and records were seized.
     Ott was charged Tuesday with eight felony counts of elder abuse: “allowing staff to forcibly administer psychotropic medications to patients for their own convenience, rather than for their patients’ therapeutic interests,” the Attorney General’s Office said. Ott surrendered Tuesday morning and pleaded not guilty. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for November.
     Hughes was charged with elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon.
     Hayes was charged with elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon. She pleaded no contest to a felony conspiracy charge of committing an act injurious to public health and is cooperating with prosecutors.
     Dr. Pormir was charged with elder abuse.
     If convicted, all the defendants could face up to 11 years in prison, Brown’s office said.

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