Cherry nurses under inquiry

Licensing board seeks details in patient death

Staff WriterDecember 16, 2008 

— The N.C. Board of Nursing is investigating at least four Cherry Hospital nurses who neglected a patient who died after being left in a chair without food, water or adequate medical attention for nearly a day.

The licensing board launched its inquiry into the actions of the nurses from the troubled mental hospital in Goldsboro in August, but the review has been stymied by the state's refusal to provide key evidence, citing personnel and patient privacy protections.

In a court order signed Nov. 25, the hospital agreed to release within 30 days the records subpoenaed by the nursing board, which includes security camera footage chronicling the neglect of patient Steven H. Sabock, who died in April.

The board is seeking timecards and assignment sheets for former Cherry nurses Latasha Lewis, Aimee Clark and Catherine Carraway, as well as licensed practical nurse Susan Watson.

All of the nurses resigned, retired or were fired in recent months.

A fifth Cherry nurse, Rae Ann Davis, is also named in the board's subpoena seeking records from the hospital, though it appears she may be under investigation over an accusation unrelated to the Sabock case.

Davis, a nurse supervisor, is still employed at Cherry.

The lawyer for the state nursing board, John Walter Bryant of Raleigh, said Monday that the hospital has made most, but not all, of the requested documents available in the weeks since a Wake County Superior Court judge signed an order compelling their release.

Bryant said the hospital has made assurances the remaining materials will be released by the judge's Christmas Day deadline.

Sabock's death triggered regulators to revoke Cherry's ability to receive federal insurance reimbursements in September, costing the state about $800,000 a month in lost revenue. The case was one of several incidents to come to light at Cherry, where at least 10 employees have been arrested on charges of physically abusing patients in little more than a year.

On Friday, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced Cherry Hospital director Jack St. Clair would resign at the end of this month. St. Clair has been offered a position with fewer responsibilities and lower pay at another state facility.

michael.biesecker@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4698

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service