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"Administrator charged in nursing home druggings" Staff
September 8, 2009

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Another person has been charged in a case of nursing home residents who were allegedly drugged against their will.

Kern Valley Hospital administrator Pamela Ott was charged Tuesday on eight felony counts of elder abuse for allowing staff to forcibly administer psychotropic medications to patients for their own convenience, rather than for their patients' therapeutic needs, according to a news release from the California Attorney General's office.

The druggings allegedly led to the deaths of three nursing home residents.
Three other people were charged in February for their alleged roles in the case. All of the defendants worked for Kern Valley Healthcare District's skilled nursing facility in Lake Isabella.

Former director of nursing Gwen Hughes, former pharmacist Debbi Hayes and staff physician Dr. Hoshang Pormir were arrested in February after a two-year investigation.

Medical complications, including lethargy and the inability to eat or drink properly, resulted from the forced medications, and three of the facility's residents may have died as a result, according to prosecutors. The patients who died were Mae Brinkley, 91; Joseph Shepter, 76; and Alexander Zaiko, 85.
Twenty-two patients were given high doses, and one surviving patient was greatly harmed, the investigation determined.

Hughes, starting in 2006, allegedly ordered staff to give high doses of psychotropic medications to Alzheimer's and other dementia patients to make them more tranquil and easier to control. Hughes allegedly ordered the medications be given to patients who argued with her, made noise or were otherwise disruptive.

In announcing the addition of charges against Ott, the attorney general's office said Ott hired and supervised Hughes and therefore is responsible, too.

"As hospital administrator, Pamela Ott was ultimately responsible for safeguarding the welfare of her patients," Attorney General Jerry Brown said in Tuesday's news release. "Instead, Ott abdicated her responsibility and allowed the staff of the Kern Valley Hospital to forcibly sedate patients who questioned their care."

Prosecutors said last month that former pharmacist Hayes was placed on probation and agreed to cooperate with the attorney general's office in its prosecution of the other defendants.