A male nurse at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center has pled guilty to sexually assaulting patients and one co-worker. In a disturbing string of events, it turns out these assaults occurred over four years, from 2009 to 2013, and during this time the hospital had received complaints about the nurse and did not take action.
The charges, which are alarming by any standards, were that the nurse assaulted nine patients, including two women hospitalized for miscarriages, some with psychological problems, and one who suffered a broken back. He raped at least one of the women while he was supposed to be helping her into the bathroom; instead he locked the door and assaulted her.
Although he was charged with rape and sodomy, those charges were dropped in the plea, in which the nurse plead guilty to:
- Seven counts of felony sex abuse
- One count of unlawful sexual penetration
- One count of attempted sex abuse
The sentencing is scheduled for late September, but experts expect the judge to sentence him to 15 years in prison under the plea deal with prosecutors.
Eight of the nurse’s victims have joined a civil lawsuit against the hospital for failing to take action against the nurse after multiple complaints were filed.
The co-worker was a hospital secretary whom the nurse trapped in a supply closet and started reaching under her clothes and grabbing her breasts. This assault happened in 2010 but the secretary was afraid to complain against him until she was laid off in 2012. According to the Portland Oregonian, “When she told the ER’s manager, . . . she had no idea that other women — ER patients — had made similar complaints to the hospital, one being four years before her assault.”
The secretary sued and received a settlement from the hospital and the ER manager. Due to her complaint, the state nursing board suspended the ER manager’s license for 90 days for not investigating the complaints.
The hospital says it has no record that the secretary reported the assault. The secretary said that in February 2012, “I told [the ER manager] exactly what happened. And he goes, ‘I’ll take care of it. I’ll get back to you.”’ But the ER manager instead started avoiding her, and didn’t respond to emails.
The ER manager’s lawyer says he “doesn’t have a recollection” of the secretary reporting the incident.
Criminal action was only taken against the nurse when Portland police arrested him in July 2013, after three Legacy ER patients said they too were sexually assaulted by him between September 2012 and Feb. 14, 2013.
When the patient from the September 2012 incident complained that the nurse told her she “turned him on” and he fondled her genitals, the ER manager responded in a letter “We are unable to substantiate the specific allegations in your complaint. However, education to emergency department staff will be conducted.” Federal investigators found no evidence that the incident was looked into at all.
When the next complaint with similar allegations came in February 2013, human resources wrote in a note in the file: “It seems unlikely that a male nurse would take such liberties with a female patient in the ED.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services threatened to withhold federal funds for the hospital unless it reworked its policies to protect patients.
As of April 2014, the Oregonian reported that “The hospital hasn’t disciplined any of its employees who handled the complaints against [the nurse], including the ER manager. He remains in his job.”