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N4T Investigators: Tucson nursing home certified nursing assistant fired after patient sexual abuse allegations

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The Pima County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an alarming allegation made against a now-former Certified Nursing Assistant at the Life Care Center of Tucson. 

After repeated inquiries from the N4T Investigators, the Sheriff’s Department confirmed its investigating one allegation of sexual abuse against a patient at the facility but would provide no details on the patient or nurse and withheld the police reports on the case. 

When the N4T Investigators tried to get ahold of the management at the Life Care Center of Tucson, our calls were not returned from anyone at the local facility but instead its corporate office Life Care Centers of America, which sent us the following statement: 

“Residents are our highest priority at Life Care Center of Tucson. Our number one goal is to do everything within our power to ensure our residents’ safety and well-being. We continually strive to deliver quality service to our residents, and we respond immediately to concerns regarding their care. 

Recently, we received a report that alleged a certified nursing assistant (CNA) abused a resident. The CNA was immediately suspended while we conducted a thorough internal investigation. The allegations were unsubstantiated. In addition to our own internal investigation, we reported the allegations to the local police, appropriate state agencies and the resident’s family. 

While our internal investigation did not substantiate the alleged abuse, we terminated the CNA for other violations of our facility’s Code of Conduct, policies and procedures. Although our reporting procedures worked appropriately, we have taken the opportunity to re-educate our staff about Life Care’s Abuse Policy, requirements to report suspected abuse and the Elder Justice Act. 

Due to HIPAA regulations, and out of respect for the resident, we cannot provide any further details. However, we are fully cooperating with all authorities that are conducting their own investigations. 

We take great pride in the care and services our staff provide to our residents and their families. Our dedicated caregivers work very hard to make this facility one that is known for its professionalism and compassion in the delivery of service to our residents, and we will continue to take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents.”

Cody Bell, Executive Director 

The N4T Investigators spoke with Katlyn Monje with the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault. She said that in Arizona the sexual abuse of people in nursing homes is unfortunately not unheard of.  

“This population [in nursing homes] with sexual assault is significantly underreported,” Monje said. 

She said not only is it underreported but also hardly ever prosecuted. 

“There’s a lot of perpetrators out there not being held accountable,” Monje said. 

We also spoke to Lynne Cadigan, a local attorney who has defended the victims in several similar cases. She said that nursing homes are a prime target for sexual abusers. 

“Nursing homes are a breeding ground for perpetrators to roam around and perpetrate on these helpless victims,” Cadigan said. 

Cadigan believes part of the issue is due to how these types of centers are operated. 

“These institutions are run by profit and when you’re run for profit that’s when you run into issues with inadequate staffing, training, lack of supervision and background check,” Cadigan explained. 

The Life Care Center of Tucson has an A rating from the Arizona Department of Health but according to State records in 2018 received a complaint about allegedly abusing a patient. The State investigator found the facility did not report the allegation to the state within five days per state law and recommended more training. According to records, the facility is back in compliance. 

On Google, it has 3.5 stars and more than a dozen bad reviews, many detailing similar stories of abuse, none described are sexual, but some said their loved ones were left to sit in their own waste for hours before getting care from a nurse.

That’s exactly what Leanna Schooley said happened to her mother, who died in the facility last year. 

“Place needs to be shut down plain and simple. It’s hard to hear your mother cry over the phone about the treatment she’s getting,” Schooley said. 

Leanna says the staff did not try and save her life when she got sick, claiming her mother told them not to resuscitate her, but Leanna had a power of attorney for her care and says she was never consulted. 

“I have to live with the fact I don’t think I did enough for her and I truly think they killed her,” Leanna said. 

A major change is in the works for nursing home oversight. In May Governor Ducey announced he wants the current board that oversees nursing home licenses out of the picture and is transferring the responsibility to the State after several reports of issues, that change is expected in about a year. 

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Chorus Nylander

Chorus Nylander is the Chief Investigative Reporter for News 4 Tucson. He is focused on giving the voiceless a voice and holding the powerful accountable.

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