Elderly patient abuse alleged


Saturday August 28, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- A second employee of Springside Nursing Home has been fired for allegedly abusing an elderly patient, according to Pittsfield police and Genesis Healthcare Corp., the nursing home's parent company.

That brings to three the number of Springside employees terminated from the Lebanon Avenue facility this month, including two for allegedly abusing disabled patients and one for failing to report one of those cases.

On Friday, 44-year-old Jodi LeBrake was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court on felony assault charges for allegedly stuffing a sock in the mouth of a 72-year-old female patient on July 23.

The incident wasn't reported to Springside officials until this month, which prompted an internal nursing home investigation that led to the firings.

The 72-year-old patient, who is blind, uses a wheelchair and has dementia, had been crying for help because she soiled herself, according to a report by Pittsfield Police Officer Robert Najimy.

LeBrake, who was a certified nursing assistant at Springside, repeatedly told the elderly patient to "shut up," then shoved a sock in her mouth and pushed her arm, according to a criminal complaint filed in District Court.

Amy Simkewicz, another former nursing assistant at the facility, was present during the incident but delayed reporting it, according to case records. Springside officials terminated Simkewicz for failing to report the incident "in a timely enough fashion," Najimy said in his report.

Simkewicz, who couldn't be reached for comment, told police she initially was reluctant to report the incident because she feared LeBrake might find out and retaliate against her.

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LeBrake's case mirrors that of 46-year-old Sandra A. Yankey, who was fired from Springside on Aug. 11 after colleagues allegedly witnessed her pulling the hair of an 81-year-old female patient. Case records indicate Yankey was "terminated on the spot."

Yankey, who has a criminal record, pleaded not guilty at her court arraignment and was ordered to return for a Sept. 18 hearing.

"The past few weeks have been difficult and challenging for all those associated with Springside of Pittsfield," Jeanne Moore, a media spokeswoman for Genesis, said in statement issued late Thursday afternoon.

Moore said the incidents were "isolated and unrelated" and were taken "very seriously" by Genesis, which is based outside of Philadelphia in Kennett Square, Pa.

Springside officials are cooperating with various authorities investigating the cases.

James M. "Mike" Rivers, the administrator of the nursing home, said the state Attorney General's Office and the state Department of Public Health are aware of the cases.

"Any type of report that gets sent to DPH, they turn over to the attorney general," Rivers said.

Moore said Genesis has a zero-tolerance abuse policy and routinely conducts criminal background and licensing checks on its employees, including LeBrake and Yankey.

"We firmly believe that these incidents are not a reflection of the overall quality of care our center provides, but the result of unlawful conduct of two former employees," Moore said, adding that Springside will conduct additional education and training on abuse prevention.

To reach Conor Berry:
or (413) 496-6249.


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