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"Nursing facility trio pleads not guilty to charges of overmedicating patients"

Original source:

The Bakersfield Californian

BY JORGE BARRIENTOS, Californian staff writer
Friday, Feb 20 2009 5:00 PM

Three current and former employees of the Kern Valley Healthcare District's nursing facility pleaded not guilty Friday afternoon in Kern County Superior Court.

The three - Gwen D. Hughes, 55, the former director of nursing; Debbi Gayle Hayes, 51, the facility's former pharmacist; and Dr. Hoshang M. Pormir, 48, a staff physician - were ordered to no longer practice while their cases are ongoing.

The California Attorney General's office alleges they drugged at least 22 elderly residents with mood-altering medications to quiet and control them, leading to three deaths.

Pormir and Hayes were released from jail Friday, and Hughes' bail was dropped substantially from $450,000 to $25,000. They are not considered "flight risks" and they do not pose a threat to the public, Judge Colette M. Humphrey determined. But Pormir's passport has been handed over to officials. None of the defendants have a criminal history.

Together they are charged on suspicion of committing 24 felony counts of elder abuse causing harm or death.

Hughes and Hayes are each charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm or force.

Family members of the defendants hugged outside the courtroom, which itself was filled with attorneys, private ones as well as those from the attorney general's office, and pharmacy and nursing boards. Family refused to comment on the case, as did their attorneys.

Attorney Dennis R. Thelen appeared on behalf of a civil case brought against the facility. He did not wish to comment of that case.

The three are scheduled back in court April 23.