Physician and nursing home staff charged with felony elder abuse

A California hospital administrator, Pamela Ott, has been charged with eight felony counts of elder abuse. Ott’s name has been added to the indictment of former director Gwen Hughes, former pharmacist; Debbi Hayes, former staff pharmacist; and Dr. Hoshang Pormir, staff physician, who were all arrested in February after a two year investigation by the Department of Health. The four were accused of elder abuse for forcibly sedating patients with high dosages of psychotropic drugs for the convenience of the Kern Valley Hospital and not for the welfare of the patients.

The Bakersfield News, Turn to 23.com, has a copy of the full indictment which says that 22 residents were forcibly give medication. Allegedly, three elderly patients died as a result of the medication including Mae Brinkley, 91; Joseph Shepter, 76; and Alexander Zaiko, 85. Another patient was greatly harmed because of the drugs.

nursing home abuse lawyer Director of Nursing, Gwen Hughes, allegedly ordered that the psychotropic medications be given to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients so that they would be easier to control. She ordered the drugs for any patient who argued with her, was noisy or disruptive. According to the report, she even ordered two patients to be held down and forcibly given the injections when they resisted. She has been charged with elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon.

Pharmacist Hayes allegedly provided the medications without a written prescription or physician approval. She has turned state’s evidence after a plea of no contest to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit an act injurious to public health. She was sentenced to three years probation and one year in jail but her jail time is suspended based upon her testimony.

Dr. Pormir, the staff physician, allegedly approved the prescription of the drugs after they had already been filled and without examining the patients.

Ott has been indicted because she hired and directly supervised Gwen Hughes. California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said:

“As hospital administrator, Pamela Ott, was ultimately responsible for safeguarding the welfare of her patients, instead, Ott abdicated her responsibility and allowed the staff of the Kern Valley Hospital to forcibly sedate patients who questioned their care.”

The defendants face up to 11 years in prison if they are convicted. They are being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse along with the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.

Over prescription of sedating medication is a form of chemical restraint. Chemical restraints should only be given in extraordinary circumstances such as a patient being at severe risk to harm themselves or another in a time of emergency. Signs of over-medication can include tremors, abnormal face and body movements, low blood pressure, hypothermia, cardiac and blood disorders and extreme drowsiness.

This information is provided by Washington Injury Attorney blog, a service of The Farber Law Group. We represent people who have been seriously injured because of nursing home neglect or abuse or the families of those killed.

See our Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Resources.

Contact The Farber Law Group at 1-800-244-9087 or attorney@hgfarber.com to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue to assist you.