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Continued: In Minnesota, nurses in trouble get second chances

  • Article by: BRANDON STAHL , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 6, 2013 - 10:29 PM

As Adams was dying in his wheelchair in a New Hope nursing home last year, his nurses were arguing about what to do about it, records show. His wife and daughter watched in horror.

The 84-year-old Adams was supposed to be at the Ambassador Good Samaritan nursing home only for about a week in March 2012 to recover from a knee replacement. While Adams was having dinner with his wife, Dorothy, and daughter Cheryl Freeburg, his head rolled back and he went unconscious. Freeburg screamed for help.

He was wheeled to his room, where one of his nurses, Chineze Anwah, said nothing was wrong with him, Freeburg said. The other nurse, Kelli Marie Harris, didn’t believe her and found that Adams had no vital signs.

Anwah wanted to do CPR. But Harris refused, saying CPR couldn’t be done on a patient with a pacemaker, records show. When police arrived, they found Adams sitting in his wheelchair, according to the New Hope police incident report. Paramedics couldn’t revive him.

The state Department of Health found the nurses responsible for the neglect of a vulnerable adult for failing to do CPR. A human services judge later recommended that finding be overturned. The judge wrote that while the nurses’ care was “collective ineptitude,” Harris made her error in “good faith” and Anwah couldn’t have given CPR without Harris’ help.

The New Hope nursing home fired Harris in July 2012 after more problems, including medication errors, according to the Nursing Board corrective action. The board ordered Harris to take four courses and do one-on-one consultation, which isn’t considered discipline.

The board has never taken action against Anwah.

Adams’ family cannot understand the board’s response.

“My assumption is that if the state is going to issue them a license, that is telling me that those nurses have gone through their educational, on-hands training and have a thorough understanding of what their duty is,” said Freeburg, Adams’ daughter. “You don’t get a do-over when you’re a nurse … Either you know it or you don’t.”


‘Shocked that they’re licensed’

Rosella Collins-Puoch was stunned to learn this year that the two nurses who had sexual contact with her son in 2005 have since regained their licenses.

Having sex with patients, even convictions for sexual misconduct, doesn’t necessarily end nursing careers in Minnesota.

Eight years ago, investigators found that Andrea Gillen and Jennifer Graft repeatedly had sexual contact with Collins-Puoch’s son. He had been civilly committed at the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center for being a mentally ill, dangerous and vulnerable adult.

Gillen and Graft agreed with the board to cease practicing weeks after they were criminally charged. In 2006, Graft pleaded guilty to criminal sexual contact by a caregiver. In 2008 Gillen pleaded to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Graft’s license was reinstated in 2007. She has no limitations on where she can work. Gillen got her license reinstated last year. She can’t work in certain care settings, such as group homes or assisted living, a limitation that can be removed after 2,000 hours of work.

Brekken, the Nursing Board director, would not specifically comment on their cases. Instead, she pointed to the state law requiring the board to reinstate licenses if nurses show they’ve been rehabilitated.

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