Nurse not guilty of reckless endangerment

Nursing home patient died week after release

June 22, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 32-year-old nurse was acquitted in Baltimore County Circuit Court yesterday of reckless endangerment for her role in the discharge of a 91-year-old nursing home patient, who died a week after her release in fall 1998.

Robin L. Kelly, a registered nurse from Fallston, was found not guilty by Judge Kathleen G. Cox after a trial that focused on the transfer of Elsie Wagner from the Genesis Cromwell Center in Parkville on Oct. 9, 1998.

Kelly and the home's administrator, Wesley E. Street, were charged when Wagner died after her transfer to a nursing home in Millsboro, Del., to be nearer to relatives.

Charges of reckless endangerment and neglect against Street were dismissed April 10 because of his lack of involvement in Wagner's transfer, state officials said.

Insufficent evidence

Cox ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove Kelly demonstrated any criminal intent, noting that a physician had final say over the transfer.

Kelly, now working at Morningside Nursing House in Parkville, hugged family members and cried at the verdict.

"I'm just very relieved," she said.

Brian Thompson, Kelly's lawyer, said she was charged after Wagner's granddaughter testified before a U.S. Senate committee on how states respond to complaints about patient care.

Maryland criticized

Maryland was one of the states criticized in a report released by the committee.

"The state needed a scapegoat, and Robin Kelly was assigned the role of scapegoat," he said.

But Jason Weinstock, an assistant state attorney general, said Kelly was charged based on complaints filed with the attorney general's office before the Senate hearings.

He said evidence showed Kelly did not consider Wagner's deteriorating condition when she signed off on the transfer.

Wagner had fallen and broken her arm and began suffering respiratory problems that Kelly failed to report in a discharge summary, according to the evidence.

She also neglected to check test results that showed critically low sodium levels in Wagner's blood, according to testimony.

But Cox said nothing was criminal in Kelly's conduct.

The judge said that other medical staff also were responsible for Wagner's care, and that when Kelly discovered the test results, she reported them to her supervisor and to Wagner's family and her doctor.

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