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Death of O’Berry Center resident under investigation

Release Date: March 12, 2009
Contact: Brad Deen, 919-733-9190

GOLDSBORO — Four employees of the O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center have been placed on investigatory leave after the death of a facility resident Wednesday evening.

The death is under internal investigation by the facility’s administration and resident advocates. Cherry Hospital’s Police Department and the Medicaid Investigations Unit of the state Attorney General’s Office are conducting law enforcement investigations. An autopsy was performed in Chapel Hill by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which expects to have final results in 90 days.

Abuse is not suspected, but because of federal and state confidentiality laws, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services cannot release details of the incident. As is standard procedure in cases of possible abuse or neglect, the employees involved in the incident — two health care technicians and two supervisory-level employees — were immediately removed from patient care and placed on paid leave pending the outcome of a full investigation.

“Law enforcement has been called in, and a thorough investigation into this incident is being conducted,” said DHHS Sec. Lanier Cansler. “In keeping with our Zero Tolerance Policy, any employee whose actions contributed to the death of this patient will be held accountable. We will also be reviewing our policies to determine if changes are warranted.”

Since assuming the leadership of the Department in January, Sec. Cansler has pursued Gov. Beverly Perdue’s goals of public accountability by taking immediate and decisive action in matters of public health and safety issues at the state facilities. On Feb. 4, he instituted a Zero Tolerance Policy for employees regarding the abuse and/or neglect of patients as well as failure to notify the facility’s administration in the event of any knowledge of any incidents at all state-operated facilities.

The O’Berry Center is a specialized residential facility for individuals with chronic medical conditions and developmental disabilities.
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