NURSING HOME SEXUAL ASSAULTS IN SW VIRGINIA

WATCH THIS

By Michael Owens

Reporter / Bristol Herald Courier

Published: August 28, 2009

BY MICHAEL L. OWENS

and DANA WACHTER

BRISTOL HERALD COURIER

NEWS CHANNEL 11 Connects

BRISTOL, Va. – The sexual assault allegations didn’t stop when nursing aide James W. Wright left the National HealthCare nursing home.

Another complaint followed at the Brookdale Senior Living-Grand Court Bristol nursing home, where the aide accepted a job after passing the criminal background and job reference checks.

In all, eight people from both nursing homes have told Virginia Department of Health Professions investigators they were groped, fondled and sexually assaulted by Wright between July 2003 and May 2008, according to documents filed Thursday by the Virginia Board of Nursing.

On Tuesday, without a hearing, the board suspended Wright’s nursing license.

The same day, a Bristol, Va., grand jury indicted Wright on four counts of aggravated sexual battery following an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia into patient treatment from 2000 to 2007.

Hours after his indictment, Bristol Virginia police arrested Wright, who is 35, at the Exit 7 International House of Pancakes, where he works as a waiter. He is being held without bond at the Bristol Virginia Jail.

Nursing board documents show that seven NHC patients complained of being sexually assaulted while under Wright’s care. Despite those complaints at NHC, the aide arrived at his new job in September 2007 with flawless references, said Holly Botsford, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Brookdale Senior Living, which runs 548 homes across the nation, including Grand Court Bristol.

“None of [the checks] indicated he had any previous employment or character issues,” Botsford said.

A Grand Court patient was sexually assaulted the following May, according to Virginia Board of Nursing documents.

Although nursing aides said they witnessed and reported sexual abuse by Wright to NHC officials, NHC did not pass along any of that information to Grand Court.

Bristol Herald Courier calls have not been returned by the Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based National HealthCare Corp., which runs the Bristol nursing home as well as 75 others in Tennessee and other eastern states.

A pair of Bristol NHC maintenance men headed off reporters in the nursing home’s parking lot Wednesday and refused access to the front door to seek comment from management.

“There’s nothing here you want to know,” one man said.

A pair of former NHC nurses said the nursing home’s management routinely dismissed patient and nurse allegations against Wright.

It was in 2003 that former NHC nurse Diane Lewis reported a patient’s complaint of being touched inappropriately. A staff director did ask the patient about the complaint, but the investigation ended there.

“They went up and talked to the man and the man wouldn’t talk to them,” Lewis said.

She attributed the patient’s silence to embarrassment over discussing a sexual assault with nursing staff he didn’t know.

“Are you going to tell them, a complete stranger, that you’ve never met before” that someone touched you inappropriately? Lewis asked.

“They disregarded it,” she said.

Twice in August 2007, then-nursing aide Patricia Davenport complained that Wright mistreated two patients.

The first complaint resulted with management telling Davenport she didn’t see what she thought she saw. The second time she complained and no action was taken, Davenport quit.

“I just don’t understand how they would let it go on,” Davenport said.

Weeks later, Wright left NHC and joined Grand Court.

Botsford said Grand Court fired Wright earlier this year amid suspicions that he mistreated patients at NHC.

SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA RESIDENTS – I AM SORRY. THIS IS AWFUL THAT A FACILITY DID NOT DO THEIR JOB in protecting your loved ones.

7

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.