Seven former Vineland Development Center nurses are under indictment for actions in April 2012 that resulted in the amputation of a female resident’s hand, according to state and Cumberland County officials.
The amputation followed the fracturing of a finger that “was not cared for properly,” the State Department of Human Services said Tuesday.
Officials with the department, which oversees the center, and the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, which handled the indictment, would not comment further on the incident.
In September 2012, the Star-Ledger of Newark reported that state Department of Health Records showed that in April 2012, the Vineland Developmental Center’s medical staff so tightly wrapped a woman’s hand to protect a fractured finger that the hand developed gangrene. The hand was amputated just above the wrist in May 2012, the newspaper reported. The health department records were among a series of documents given to the state Task Force on the Closure of State Developmental Centers, the newspaper reported. The Vineland Developmental Center was at the time in danger of being closed by the state.
The 2015 indictment charges all seven defendants — Margie Levick, Parul Patel, Tracy Pitts-Byrd, Yvonne Downing, Towanda Marrero, Geraldine Rothmaller and Shiree Cephas — with a single count of endangering the welfare of a disabled person. Pitts-Byrd, Rothmaller, Marrero, Downing and Cephas also were indicted on single counts of official misconduct and falsifying or tampering with records.
The indictment states that the seven defendants allegedly “knowingly unreasonably neglected to do, or failed to permit to be done, any act necessary for the physical or mental health” of the resident from April 23 to 27, 2012.
Pitts-Byrd, Patel and Levick are Bridgeton residents, while Marrero and Downing live in Millville and Cephas lives in Vineland, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. Rothmaller lives in Sewell, Gloucester County.
The indictment followed a direct presentment to a grand jury. That means no charges were lodged against the defendants prior to the grand jury presentment. The indictment was filed April 22, 2015.
Officials with the Prosecutor’s Office appeared before Superior Court Judge Robert Malestein on Monday regarding the indictment. A transcript of that proceeding, which included statements regarding the incident, should be made available Wednesday, Superior Court officials said.
Meanwhile, the state human services department also lodged a series of administrative charges against all seven defendants. The charges vary by defendant but include allegations of negligence, “serious mistake due to carelessness which would result in danger (or) injury to persons or property,” “improper conduct which violates common decency” and “notoriously disgraceful conduct.”
The charges are still pending against the seven defendants, state officials said.
According to the state human services department, Levick and Patel were registered nurses. The other five defendants were licensed practical nurses.
Administrative charges also were filed against Alyce Fedd, a former practical nurse at the center, according to state officials. Fedd, for whom no address was available, faces no criminal charges.
All eight people no longer work for the state, human services department officials said. Their separation dates range from August 2012 to February 2014, the officials said.
The Vineland Developmental Center is located on East Landis Avenue. The facility provides residential, habilitation, behavioral and health care programs for adult men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to the state’s website.
The state proposed closing the center in 2011. Gov. Chris Christie’s administration said doing so would save the state millions of dollars and move center residents into community-based facilities.
However, the proposal caused widespread opposition from many of the developmental center’s 1,400 employees. Business and government leaders throughout Cumberland County said the closing would worsen the county’s unemployment rate and economy.
Families of many of the center’s residents packed Vineland City Hall for a hearing on the proposed closing. They told state officials they were happy with the care being given at the center.
VINELAND — About 40 state workers picketed at the Vineland Developmental Center here on Wedn…
The state task force recommended in July 2012 that the Vineland Developmental Center remain open and that centers in Middlesex and Bergen counties be closed.