For months, a home health aide neglected two severely ill children, turning off their feeding tubes and skipping their medications while she slept on the job and had sex with a male visitor, according to an investigation by the Minnesota Office of Health Facility Complaints.
The aide, who was not identified, was fired after her actions were captured on videotape, the investigation found.
The case was one of several reports disclosed Tuesday by the state agency, which investigates complaints of poor care at hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies. It also cited two nursing homes for neglect in the deaths of two patients.
The home health aide was caught after the family became suspicious and installed a video camera in the children's room, said Christina Stevenson, manager of the Divine Healthcare Network, the home health agency where the woman worked. Stevenson said the parents had become alarmed when they noticed that the children were losing weight. One child dropped 23 pounds in seven months, according to the report, which did not reveal the children's ages.
The state investigation did not identify the family. But the report says that the two children were born with a medical condition that requires around-the-clock care, including feeding tubes and ventilators. The home health aide had been hired for the night shift.
Stevenson said the aide, a certified nursing assistant, had passed a background check when she was hired in 2007 the St. Paul agency. Stevenson said the agency fired the woman "immediately" when the allegations came to light last fall, and notified the state. The company was not faulted in the investigation.
Aide admitted problems
The aide admitted in a written statement that she started having problems in June 2008 "and became neglectful of her duties." She admitted falling asleep on the job, and that she falsified the paperwork to cover the gaps when she neglected the children's medications and tube feedings.
By October, the unexplained weight loss had caused so much concern that one of the children was rushed to a hospital emergency room. Within a week, the family had a security camera trained on their night aide. The footage, recorded from Oct. 18 to 24, 2008, showed that the aide turned off the children's feeding pumps for "extended periods," that she left them unattended during smoking breaks, and had sexual intercourse with a male friend "in the children's living quarters," the report found.
This type of incident is rare among home health agencies, officials said.
Stella French, head of the Office of Health Facility Complaints, said the investigation concluded that the aide was solely responsible for the neglect. The finding disqualifies her from working as a medical aide. Although the report did not say where the incidents took place, a copy of the investigation was forwarded to Owatonna police and the Steele County attorney's office.
In other reports released Tuesday, the state found that:
• Martin Luther Care Center in Bloomington was neglectful in the death of a patient in January. The investigation found that the staff delayed calling police or paramedics for as long as half an hour as the patient lay dying, and did not perform CPR after she stopped breathing. The nursing home has appealed the findings, which could result in loss of federal Medicare funds or other penalties. The patient had been admitted for "a week or two of rehab" after an operation, and had been expected to recover, the report found. The home did not reply to a request for comment.
• Thorne Crest Retirement Center in Albert Lea failed to respond adequately to a woman suffering from severe respiratory distress and anxiety. The patient had severe symptoms for 12 hours before she was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she died that same day last November, the report found. Thorne Crest officials could not be reached for comment.
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384