Local News

Cherry Hospital director to resign

Posted December 12, 2008 2:09 p.m. EST
Updated December 12, 2008 7:22 p.m. EST

— The director of Cherry Hospital will leave the beleaguered mental health facility at the end of the month, officials said Friday.

Dr. Jack St. Clair, who has headed Cherry Hospital for the past three years, has been offered a transfer to Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, where he will serve as business manager, officials said.

"This was a decision that was a long time coming," said Vick Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina, a group mandated by Congress to monitor and ensure the safety of patients with disabilities.

"It was very clear that you had to send a message that abuse would not be tolerated. And it starts with the leadership at the top," she added.

Cherry Hospital has come under fire in recent months for a patient's death, criminal charges against employees and loss of federal funding.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September revoked the Goldsboro facility's certification following the death of a patient who choked on medication and who before that had been left sitting in a chair unsupervised for nearly 24 hours.

The loss of certification means the state can't be reimbursed for treating patients on Medicare or Medicaid. It is estimated that costs the state about $800,000 a month.

Several hospital employees were suspended for neglecting the patient who died, Steven Howard Sabock.

Two former workers were found guilty last month of assaulting a patient at the mental facility. A third former worker was charged with a felony sexual offense after being accused of having sex with a patient.

The Compass Group, a private consultant, will take over management when St. Clair resigns Dec. 31.

The Department of Health and Human Services had no comment on the resignation.