Three residents of a central Minnesota senior residence — two female and one male — were molested by a female employee on various occasions last winter, according to a new state Health Department investigation.

All three had some degree of dementia and could not report the abuse, ­investigators found.

The caregiver was suspended when the incidents first came to the attention of administrators and was fired soon thereafter, said Roman Bloemke, director of operations for Hutchinson-based Welcome Home Health Care Inc., which operates The Legends at Heritage Place in ­Sartell, as well as facilities in eight other Minnesota cities.

Police said Tuesday they have forwarded one case to prosecutors for possible ­felony charges.

State investigators blamed the employee and the facility’s operators for the abuse, noting that employees failed to follow internal policies and allowed the worker to keep caring for vulnerable adults.

“Two staff members witnessed the inappropriate touch,” according to a summary of the state’s findings. “Evidence revealed administrative nursing staff was aware of one of the abuse allegations and failed [to act].”

The Health Department declined to release the identity of the caregiver or the victims, all of whom were suffering from dementia and required help with everyday basics such as bathing, ­dressing and grooming.

Bloemke said that staff members are trained on care of vulnerable adults and that the training was repeated in light of the case. “We have taken numerous steps to prevent a recurrence, including conducting an all-staff training on abuse prevention and reporting that was led by the state ombudsman’s office,” Bloemke said. “In addition, we have provided education and training to residents and families.”

According to the Health Department:

A Legends employee saw the caregiver “probe” and “push” a resident’s breasts one day in February and say, “I just love to touch [her].” Later in the month, the staff member was again seen touching the same resident’s breasts and commenting about them.

Near the end of February, the same employee fondled a different female resident’s breasts and ignored a co-worker’s orders to stop. In mid-March, the caregiver was seen abusing a resident’s penis as the man screamed “stop.” The worker told a colleague she was cleaning the resident.