According to an investigation by a Bristol, Virginia, newspaper, reports of a nursing home aide's sexual assaults of elderly residents were thrown in the trash.
In early July 2007, four National Healthcare Bristol nursing home employees penned their accusations that a nursing aide was sexually assaulting patients.
A week later, they heard that then-Director of Nursing Anne Franklin threw at least two of those complaints into a trash can.
But the staff’s complaints didn’t stop, said Cynthia Aldrich, a former nursing aide who was one of those four employees. By the end of that July, Aldrich said Thursday, she lashed out in a fit of frustration at the nursing home’s on-call doctor, urging him to do something.
More than a month later, top suspect James W. Wright would leave the nursing home, but not before one more nurse complained to supervisors that she twice caught him sexually abusing a blind woman patient.
Wright – charged Aug. 26 with the sexual battery of four patients – left to work at another nursing home.
Yet questions still linger over whether he was forced out or left the job on his own.
Background checks by his next employer show that Wright was looking for another job before his last day at National Healthcare, according to documents provided to the Bristol Herald Courier.
That employer, Brookdale Senior Living – Grand Court Bristol, did its criminal background check through the Virginia State Police on July 31, 2007. Wright’s record was clean.
Documents also show that Grand Court Bristol did a second background check on Wright more than a year later, on Jan. 20, 2009.
In March, Grand Court fired Wright amid suspicions that he harmed patients while working at National Healthcare.
Representatives of the Murfreesboro, Tenn.- based National Healthcare Corp. said they hadn’t heard the allegations about the discarded complaints.
“We are presently unaware of these allegations, but will continue to cooperate in the investigation of these matters,” company spokesman Gerald Coggin wrote in an e-mail.
Telephone and e-mail queries to Franklin’s attorney, Tim Hudson, have not been returned.
Franklin, in an Aug. 26 statement sent through Hudson, wrote: “All allegations of misconduct regarding Mr. Wright, or any other employee, which were brought to my attention while I was Director of Nursing at NHC Bristol were promptly referred for investigation.”
Aldrich, now a nursing assistant employed in Johnson City, Tenn., said she heard through an eyewitness that Franklin trashed two or three complaints after labeling them as unreliable.
Aldrich refused to name the nurse who witnessed the trashing of the documents.
Complaints by former nursing aides and patients are the basis of the four criminal sexual battery charges against Wright. Three charges stem from his 1999-2007 stint at NHC and the fourth is from his 2007-09 stint at Grand Court Bristol.
More accusations are included in the Virginia Board of Nursing’s case against Wright. The board yanked his nursing aide license in August. A formal hearing is scheduled for November in Richmond.
Initially, Aldrich said she considered talk of someone hurting patients as nothing but rumor.
She began to believe on July 4, 2007, the day she snapped on a pair of gloves and a patient nearby panicked.
“She said ‘What are you going to do? Are you going to molest me like that boy did last night?’ ” Aldrich said.
The woman did not name a suspect for Aldrich. However, the Board of Nursing lists a July 4, 2007, attack in the order suspending Wright’s license.
Aldrich said she and three other nurses gathered the next day and complained that patients were alleging abuse. The four nurses, Aldrich said, were told to write everything on paper.
Days later, Aldrich said, a fellow complainant described a heated argument with Franklin.
“She said that Anne Franklin wadded up the stuff and said this one [nursing aide] is a liar, and this one isn’t credible, and she threw that away,” Aldrich said.
Later that month, the nursing home’s on-call doctor lectured the aides about burnout and showing respect to superiors.
“I said how can you respect somebody who lets this kind of stuff go on,” Aldrich recalled.
The on-call doctor, after being told about the abuse allegations, met with Franklin, Aldrich said.
Wright remained at NHC through the next month, leaving days after former nursing aide Patricia Davenport accused him of inappropriately touching a woman patient.
Davenport, in a previous interview, said she quit before Wright left, believing that her supervisors weren’t taking the accusations seriously.
Wright joined the Grand Court Bristol staff with a passing reference from NHC. For more, read the story.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.
Posted on Tue, September 8, 2009
by Robert Carter