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Hospital To Pay In Nurse Case

Hospital To Pay In Nurse Case

Robin Williams Adams / The Ledger

November 05, 2008

LAKELAND | Health Central Hospital in Ocoee is paying a $4,000 fine to settle a complaint that it failed to report allegations of sexual misconduct against a nurse who later was arrested in Polk County on similar charges.

Nurse Kevin Laing was arrested in September 2007 on charges of having molested an Auburndale woman while she was a patient at Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Haines City. Those charges were dropped in February because the patient had died of unrelated causes.

On March 30, however, Laing pleaded no contest to an Orange County case related to the earlier sexual misconduct complaints that the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration said Health Central failed to report. Ocoee is in Orange County near Orlando.

The court agreement called for Laing to be on probation for 15 years, wear a GPS monitoring device and be designated as a sex offender.

If Heart of Florida had known about the Health Central allegations and Laing’s subsequent arrest, Heart of Florida officials said, he wouldn’t have been working at Heart of Florida in September 2007. That’s when the local molestation charges surfaced.

Heart of Florida reported the accusation at its facility to the state, as required by state law.

Health Central in Ocoee hadn’t done that, the Agency for Health Care Administration said in its administrative complaint against Health Central, and that led to its fine.

In the only comparable case he could find, an agency spokesman said the state levied a $1,000 fine against a hospital in 2006 for failing to report an unspecified incident of misconduct.

The agency said the families of two patients at Health Central had lodged complaints – one April 3, 2006, that involved a nurse speaking inappropriately and another March 5, 2007, that accused the same nurse of having touched a patient in a sexual manner in February 2007.

The agency complaint doesn’t name Laing, but the link was made in later Department of Health charges against him.

Laing left Health Central in March 2007. Within a week, he was taking care of patients at Heart of Florida.

In June 2007, Laing was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting one of the Health Central patients. But the Florida Department of Law Enforcement doesn’t have mechanisms for automatically notifying the Department of Health when a health worker is arrested.

So neither Department of Health nor Heart of Florida knew of the arrest involving the Ocoee patient. They learned about it after the Auburndale woman accused Laing of molesting her on two separate days in mid-September 2007, officials with the Department of Health and hospital said.

In Polk County, he was charged with indecent exposure, committing an unnatural and lascivious act, battery and two counts of sexual battery on a female patient. The Department of Health put his license on emergency suspension in December, citing his two arrests and the accusations made by the female patients. It remains on emergency suspension, according to the DOH Web site.

The Agency for Health Care Administration, the state agency charged with monitoring hospitals, did a complaint survey at Health Central at the end of February. That was the same month in which the Polk State Attorney’s Office dropped charges against Laing in the Polk case because of the local patient’s death.

Inspecting Health Central, the agency found the hospital’s policies and procedures for handling sexual abuse and misconduct didn’t include a provision, which it should have under state law, that required contacting the Department of Health about allegations of sexual misconduct by a health care practitioner that involve a patient.

The Health Central policy had last been revised in May 2006, the state complaint said. The agency ordered the hospital to correct the problem by March 27 of this year. In agreeing to pay the state-mandated fine, Health Central doesn’t deny or admit the allegations against it.

Health Central officials didn’t return a call asking for additional comment.

© YellowBrix 2008

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