A 40-year-old resident at a Maplewood care facility was molested over nearly “every inch” of her body last year by a nursing aide who had a previous conviction for assault and should have been barred from direct contact with patients, according to an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The incident, which occurred after the aide offered the woman a nighttime massage for a sore back, occurred on May 6, 2014, at a facility operated by Golden Valley-based Parkinson’s Specialty Home Care, the investigation found.
Parkinson’s CEO Marcia Cotter said Thursday that the aide worked as a contract employee of Soul Care, a Minneapolis staffing agency, and said her company assumed Soul Care had checked the man’s background. “When we found out [about the allegations], we terminated our relationship with them,” Cotter said.
State law requires supplemental nursing agencies to conduct background checks on employees who will have direct contact with clients, but it also requires the operators of nursing homes and licensed care facilities to keep a copy of that background check.
Iris Freeman, director of the Vulnerable Adult Justice Project at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, said a nursing facility is legally responsible for providing safe care to its residents, even if that care is being provided by an outside agency.
The Health Department forwarded its findings to Maplewood police and the Ramsey County attorney’s office. But Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell said no charges were filed because of insufficient evidence.
“These are very difficult … cases from a prosecution standpoint,” Schnell said. “There is a high burden of proof, and in this case, prosecutors didn’t feel there was sufficient evidence.”
In March 2011, the aide and the contractor were notified by the state Department of Human Services that he was banned professionally from “any position allowing direct contact with, access to, persons receiving services” from state-licensed care programs. That restriction grew out of a fourth-degree assault conviction.
In November 2012, the Health Department initially concluded that the same aide sexually assaulted a resident with personality disorders at the Lake Minnetonka Care Center in Deephaven. The resident in this case, the department said in its public findings, was a woman in her mid-50s who reported that she was digitally penetrated by the man.
Deephaven police said the lack of a confession made it difficult to seek charges against the St. Paul man, who is in his mid-40s, and no case was pursued. The home’s administrator challenged the findings and a month later, state health officials reversed themselves and labeled the case “unsubstantiated.”
In both the Maplewood and Deephaven cases, the aide denied wrongdoing, the department said.
Soul Care’s registration as a supplemental nursing services agency was revoked by the state Department of Health, meaning it should have ceased operation, an agency spokesman said Thursday.
An official who answered Soul Care’s phone Thursday said the company was bought out and renamed All Hearts Service, and that the aide has not worked for the company since the Maplewood allegations surfaced. All Hearts Service is not registered with the state as a supplemental nursing agency, a Health Department spokesman said.
The name of the aide has not been released by the Health Department, which is the agency’s practice in such investigations. The Star Tribune obtained the man’s name through criminal records, but reached on Thursday, he declined to comment, as did his attorney.
According to the Health Department’s report in the Maplewood case:
The client was suffering from a degenerative disease but was “alert and oriented.” The aide helped the woman get ready for bed. She said her back was sore, prompting the aide to offer her a back rub. The aide used lotion on her back, then rolled her over and “touched/massaged ‘every inch of my body’ … except for the client’s pubic area.”
The resident reported the incident to a nurse and added that she’s needed “increased visits to a therapist to assist her in dealing with the incident.”
The aide’s criminal history in Minnesota includes a fourth-degree assault conviction from 2008, when he was driving outside a St. Paul grocery store and briefly dragged a police officer who suspected him of shoplifting. His record also includes convictions for domestic assault and theft.