WRAL Investigates

Fired Cherry Hospital worker could get job back

Posted September 23, 2010

WRAL Investigates

— After years of reports of abuse at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, Lanier Cansler, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, instituted a zero-tolerance policy for abuse. Now one employee, fired for his actions, is challenging his dismissal and the policy as a whole.

A surveillance video showed the scene that ultimately cost O'Tonious Raynor his job at Cherry Hospital, but his work history might get him his job back.

“My intent was not to abuse the patient,” Raynor said. “My intent was to keep from getting hurt.”

The hospital deemed Raynor's reaction to an out-of-control patient as abuse. Joe Webster, an administrative law judge overseeing the appeal, agreed it was excessive force, but said in his opinion that Raynor should have been suspended, not fired. This isn't the final decision, but the judge pointed to Raynor's good reviews over 13 years.

The surveillance tape shows the overnight hours of March 10 into March 11 when Raynor was watching a patient who suffered from schizophrenia.

“(I was told) that he couldn’t get along with others,” Raynor said.

The patient punched Raynor several times, injuring his eye, when the patient wasn’t allowed to smoke, according to the written record. Raynor pushed the patient down and pinned him against the furniture while standing on the patient's hand in a cast. Raynor then dragged him off.

According to the written account and the tape, it all happened in a common area, and then Raynor dragged the patient down the hall to the bedrooms – out of view of the surveillance cameras.

Fired Cherry Hospital worker could get job back

The record says Raynor hurt the patient's already fractured hand in the process. Raynor's supervisors say his actions crossed the line when he pinned the patient against the furniture instead of getting help.

“There were so many points in that series of events where he could’ve stopped,” said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina. “We support the firing, and we support Secretary (Lanier) Cansler’s zero-tolerance policy of abuse.”

The policy was in reaction to Cherry Hospital's history of problems. One surveillance video showed a patient who was neglected, left sitting in the same chair for about 22 hours with no food, water, medication or a visit to the bathroom. He died that same day. Other abuse and assault cases surfaced there as well.

Smith said she worries the judge's opinion in the Raynor case puts zero-tolerance in jeopardy.

“The only way to break a culture of abuse and neglect is to take very serious action and to demonstrate that it’s not OK,” she said.

Raynor says he tried to call for help that night, but that his personal beeper malfunctioned. In the meantime, he is still collecting workman's comp for his injuries.

“These glasses are a result of that. I lost some vision in my left eye,” he said.

Raynor was never criminally charged. As far as getting his job back, the decision – with the judge's recommendation – goes to the state personnel commission in October.

WRAL asked Cansler if this case would affect his zero tolerance policy. He said decisions such as these make it more difficult for DHHS to meet its obligations to its patients.

48 Comments

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  • babyblue227 Sep 27, 12:28 p.m.

    is the patient legally competent? if not, where does his guardian say about this I wonder. would the guardian be family or some random state appointed guardian ,supposing this is the situation. what medical problems did this pt have at the time of this assault? what kind of injury did this pt sustain? (this will get into area of legal definitions related to abuse and neglect). how old was mr raynor at time of the attack? video shows an obese african american male. from sound of his voice probably raised here in the south on fried chicken,pork barbeque and hushpuppies! lots of good ham hock in collards and fat back (oh yum!!) im thinking mid to late 40s. combine diet,genetic predispostion,age and lack of excercise he probably had some high blood pressure and at least borderline alterations in carbohydrate metabolism (ie diabetes). that is probably the true reason he is needing glasses! once this pt was pushed away,was there really a need for holding him down and beating him? why no cri

  • babyblue227 Sep 27, 12:08 p.m.

    i have yet to read where any of you are sking some of the more important questions. I am so ashamed of this mans behavior!! that goes so far beyond self protection!!

  • mildredmitchell Sep 24, 4:49 p.m.

    These employees are paid so little and have to put up with so much. If abuse happened, then shame on the employee, but there are tons more cases where the patient is the abuser.

  • elatsmith Sep 24, 4:31 p.m.

    affirmativediversity@12:06pm- what are you talking about? there is no mention in the court transcript, nor in any of the newspaper articles or tv clips about this case, nor any accusations by the state or the patient that a pillow ever was placed on his face?

  • elatsmith Sep 24, 4:19 p.m.

    if you restrained someone by yourself ( which many of us are capable of doing in some instances , not just you hero) you would be fired. Policy ( as explained in goldsboro news argus on Wednesday past) is that " two or more staff assist with restraint" which is why the judge is saying Raynor was punished too severely- he was left alone without any help. Our emergency beepers/pagers whatever you want to call them often fail to work- with your advanced knowledge of communications devices you could probably fix that

  • hmmmm Sep 24, 3:32 p.m.

    Johnstonredneck.....what do you mean a pager is a one way device???? What point is it that you are trying to make....when they say his beeper "malfunctioned", they mean it didn't go off. "Beepers" at Cherry are pressed to summons additional help, when it malfunctions nobody is aware that you need assistance. It is a type of body alarm that staff wear.

  • johnstonredneck Sep 24, 3:03 p.m.

    elatsmith in case you are not familiar with electronic communications, a pager(beeper) is a one way communication. It receives only. It is not a two way communications device. Sounds like the worker nor you know too much about communications. And for the record I have on more than one occasion had to restrain someone by myself. That is what training is for! Any more questions?

    I didn't think so.

  • sintisha Sep 24, 3:03 p.m.

    This is a tough situation that happens everywhere. There is abuse in all facilities even hospitals. It's not all physical, but verbal abuse as well. The employees are not trained properly to handle certain pt's and the pt's are not given the proper meds right away either. There are so many steps to get a pt on the right meds when they go into a facility. Meanwhile the pt is upset and takes it out on the employee and the employee isn't getting paid enough or trained to deal with the pt. I am always amazed how someone can get paid so little, but are told to do so much! This system is definitely not working for either side.

  • cwood3 Sep 24, 2:12 p.m.

    Difficult job, difficult patient, video without details equals a hit job by WRAL. The State needs to investigate and be FAIR. Opinions mean very little. The employer(Stae of NC) owes to all parties to determine all the issues. The employee must be protected against injury by the inmates/patients. If a wrong was done, penalize the right person. But do not just show a video, and fire the employee.

  • Qwerty27807 Sep 24, 1:58 p.m.

    How is it that the patient sucker-punches the employee with the hand in the cast, yet the *employee* is blamed for injuring the patient's hand by "standing" on it?
    Sounds like some folks need a truckload of common sense delivered ASAP.

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