Local News

Regulators investigating Cherry Hospital nurses

Posted December 16, 2008

— North Carolina regulators are investigating nurses at a state mental hospital where a patient died after being ignored for nearly a day.

The state Board of Nursing started an investigation in August of at least four nurses at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Tuesday.

The probe began after patient Steven H. Sabock died shortly after he had been left in a chair without food, water or proper medical attention. Sabock, 50, of Roanoke Rapids, had a bipolar disorder and died April 29 after choking on medication and hitting his head.

No one has established a connection between his being neglected and his death.

Video released by the state shows employees playing cards and watching television and ignoring Sabock as he slumped in a chair.

The nurses involved have resigned, retired or been fired.

Investigators were held up because the hospital initially refused to provide evidence, citing privacy concerns. The hospital agreed to hand over records and videos after a court order last month.

A lawyer for the nursing board said the hospital made most of the information that investigators wanted available after the court order was signed Nov. 25. Attorney John Walter Bryant said the hospital said it would provide the rest by a Dec. 25 deadline.

Federal authorities have withheld monthly insurance payments of $800,000 after Sabock's death. The Sabock death wasn't the only issue at Cherry. At least 10 employees have been arrested on charges of abusing patients over the past 12 months or more.

Hospital director Jack St. Clair said he would resign at the end of December, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced last week. St. Clair was offered a job as business manager at the state's Neuro-Medical Treatment Center in Black Mountain.

A criminal investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation also began in August.


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  • lissad821 Dec 18, 2008

    Let me just say that by working in a medical facility I see how some in home nurses treat their patients when they bring them in for a dr. visit and I am not surprised by these employees behaviors. Most of them are there just to earn money and don't really care about the patient. They mistreat them and even steal form them. Half of these employees are CNA'S because they can't make it as a real RN. It is very sad this family has to suffer and I hope they fight and get everything they deserve!!!!

  • amyrn Dec 18, 2008

    Now having defended Cherry Hospital, let me say I do not condone the behavior of the techs or the nurses who were supervising them. Hopefully, with the management company and new management, the hospital will be able to regain its funding and provide the care needed for these patients. Many patients have no where else to go. They have no insurance and no money. Private hospitals can only take a few indigent patients, the rest go to state facilities. At least for some of them, they are not out on the street, hungry, wet and cold. Many mentally ill are homeless (thank you Reagan Administration). Many are veterans who cannot get treated at the VA. We condemn what these few people did in the treatment of Mr. Sabock, but please have some compassion for those employees that are doing their best every day in a voilatile and dangerous environment.

  • amyrn Dec 18, 2008

    I know that HCT's hired from July 2003 thru August 2008 were NOT part of the Workfirst program. They applied on state PD 107's and were either already certified as nursing assistants or they were hired as trainees and got their certification through the hospital's nursing education program. They had to pass a drug screen and a criminal background check prior to hire. I don't know about anything prior to 2003. As to the remark about "nursing homes", Cherry is not a nursing home, it is a hospital. The best functioning unit was the adolescent unit. The majority of staff were very committed to their jobs and the kids were well treated and received counseling. Keep in mind some people are placed inappropriately in a psychiatric facility. Some people who should be in jail use it as a way to get out of the jail and some adolescents should be placed at the juvenile detention centers for their behaviors.

  • SailbadTheSinner Dec 16, 2008

    “Investigators were held up because the hospital initially refused to provide evidence, citing privacy concerns.”

    Now, do you begin to see the REAL reason for HIPAA?

    The benefits to the public from this law are strictly side-effects of the real reason: To make it difficult to gather the evidence for medical malpractice suits that will be paid for by insurance companies ....


  • babyblue2 Dec 16, 2008

    celong....if what you say is true about some of the employees being part of the "workfirstwelfare" program then they need to have their benefits cut off immediately. they were not working. they were laughing, playing cards and watching tv and god knows what else while this man, this human being lay there injured and unattended and dying.EVERYONE involved should face criminal charges and i hope the man's wife fights this till the bitter end. good lord, what kind of representation of mankind have we become when the life of another human being takes backstage to our own selfish wants.

  • ConcernedNCC Dec 16, 2008

    You notice that the head of the hospital is already going to head up another one!

  • diogenes Dec 16, 2008

    Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC)--when privatized, the entity that Gov. Easley quietly in 2007 permanently diverted millions of federal dollars to--by law is the first to investigate these patient abuse incidents. Today though, these trained patient advocates no longer have 24/7 (federally funded) offices in the hospitals. This death is really a symptom of "advocacy neglect" more than one of staffing oversights.

  • ghimmy51 Dec 16, 2008

    Nobody above the level of peon with the state EVER gets fired. They usually get kicked upstairs and given a raise. You know the guy in charge of the messed up I-40 paving is in charge of ALL paving in the area now.

  • raggy831 Dec 16, 2008

    I am not proud of the fact...but I was at Cherry Hospital as a teen ager...things were about the same then as now and this was in the 60's...the staff did not care then either. Thank God my parents got me out and I now live a great life.

  • pddjango Dec 16, 2008

    Now we're getting somewhere. The nurses are in charge on a unit. If they're not supervising the techs and watching the patients, either because they don't care or because of the cultural issues mentioned several times in other stories, you begin to see the "systemic" problems.