Local News

Regulators investigating Cherry Hospital nurses

Posted December 16, 2008 7:26 a.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2008 10:37 a.m. EST

— 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.