Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced that Kern Valley Hospital administrator Pamela Ott was charged on eight felony counts of elder abuse Tuesday, for allowing staff to forcibly administer psychotropic medications to patients for their own convenience, rather than for their patients' therapeutic interests. These actions are alleged to have resulted in the deaths of three nursing home residents.
"As hospital administrator, Pamela Ott, was ultimately responsible for safeguarding the welfare of her patients," Brown said. "Instead, Ott abdicated her responsibility and allowed the staff of the Kern Valley Hospital to foricibly sedate patients who questioned their care."
Brown the charges against Ott in Kern County Superior Court. She surrendered herself in court this morning and pled not guilty. She was released on her own recognizance on the condition that she not run a skilled nursing facility.
A preliminary hearing is set for November 4, 2009. Tuesday's charges are in addition to those filed in February 2009 against:
•Gwen Hughes, the former Director of Nursing at the skilled nursing facility of the Kern Valley Healthcare District in Lake Isabella, Kern County on charges of elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon.
•Debbi Hayes, the former pharmacist at the Valley Healthcare District, on charges of elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon. On August 14, 2009, Hayes pled no contest to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit an act injurious to public health. She is a cooperating witness for the people.
•Dr. Hoshang Pormir, a staff physician at Kern Valley Healthcare District, who was serving as the medical director of the skilled nursing facility, on charges of elder abuse.
As the Administrator of the Kern Valley Health Care District, Ott hired and supervised Director of Nursing Gwen Hughes.
Upon taking over in Sept. 2006, Hughes ordered that Alzheimer's and other dementia patients be given high doses of psychotropic medications to make them more tranquil and easy to control. She ordered the administration of these medications to patients who argued with her, were noisy, or who were otherwise disruptive. Two patients who resisted were held down and forcibly given injections. Ms. Ott was informed of these actions and allowed them to continue.
Hughes is also alleged to have directed Debbi Hayes, the hospital pharmacist, to fill prescriptions for psychotropic medications. Hayes wrote and filled these prescriptions without first obtaining a doctor's approval.
Dr. Pormir approved these psychotropic medications only some time after they had been administered and without examining the patients first and determining whether these psychotropic medications were medically necessary.
Several of these patients are alleged to have had medical complications as a result of being given these psychotropic medications, including lethargy and the inability to eat or drink properly. It is believed that three patients died and one patient suffered great bodily injury as a result.
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Charges Filed Against Former Nursing Home Admin.