Criminal probe at Port Orchard Care Center

"Port Orchard Care Center employees involved in several alleged incidents of sexual and physical abuse of the nursing home's residents are under investigation by Port Orchard Police and the state attorney general.Meanwhile, a state-imposed ban on new admissions at the center was recently lifted after state Department of Social and Health Services officials ruled the facility was back in compliance with state and federal nursing-care standards. The decision followed a four-month investigation into the facility and its practices.Police chief Alan Townsend said the criminal investigation was officially launched by his department March 10, and at least four current or former Port Orchard Care Center employees are involved.As of last Friday, Townsend believed one employee had been fired when reports first broke that alleged abuses had occurred at the center. Three others may still be working there, he said.Police say limited information on the investigation is available because many victims and suspects have not been contacted by officials yet.Port Orchard Care Center administrator Dawn Gegenfurtner said management is conducting its own investigation into the abuse allegations.When suspensions or terminations were warranted, these actions have been taken, she said in a prepared statement. Since the investigations are ongoing, we will not discuss publicly any personnel issues involved, but any members of the public who have concerns or who wish to discuss the matters are welcome to visit and see for themselves the care our patients are receiving.State long-term care omnibudsman Gayle Helseth-Kenison said she doesn't understand why new residents can be admitted at the center while former or current employees are the subjects of a criminal investigation.I think the lift on the stop-placement was premature, Helseth-Kenison said. Since the stop-placement was lifted, two more complaints have come into my office, and until I know these incidences have been looked into and resolved, I'm not comfortable.According to police, one incident under investigation involves an 80-year-old center resident who was allegedly subjected to several incidents of sexual abuse by as many as three employees at the nursing home between November 1998 and February 2000.Police also say as many as 18 nursing-home residents, ranging in age from 58 to 91, were allegedly subjected to misdemeanor assault, indecent liberties and malicious harassment by at least one employee between August 1998 and February 2000. I hope the Port Orchard Care Center can get back to providing good care to residents, because we certainly need it in such a small community, Helseth-Kenison said.Helseth-Kenison speculated that so much alleged abuse occurred at the center because of rapid turnover of key players at the nursing home. Over the last six years, Helseth-Kenison said the facility has changed corporate hands twice, and management positions have been filled by a different face each year.The census fell dramatically over the last few months at the facility, she said. Many upset residents moved to Orcharde Point, she said, which is a newly opened nursing home in Port Orchard for those suffering from dementia."

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