Oklahoma state agency puts focus on abuse by caretakers

BY WENDY K. KLEINMAN Published: November 16, 2008
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Bobbie Jo Wilhelm is the latest person to be held liable for crimes against vulnerable Oklahomans by the Attorney General’s Patient Abuse and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

The former Bartlesville Care Center admissions coordinator must pay about $9,000 in restitution and fines and serve a two-year deferred sentence for eight felony counts of financial exploitation by a caretaker, Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s office announced Monday.

Wilhelm, 54, cashed more than $7,500 in oil royalty checks in 2005 and 2006 that should have gone to a resident.

Assistant director of nursing Ronna Heatherly declined to comment about the issue.

The patient abuse unit receives about 250 referrals a year from police departments, the State Health Department and private citizens, unit chief Don Brown said.

"Since this is all we do, we have more expertise than the average law enforcement agency does in this particular area,” Brown said.

The unit has seven investigators, Brown said.

Oklahoma is one of four states in the nation that are in full compliance with federal regulations, said Don White, spokesman for the U.S. Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The regulations cover staffing, reporting and financial standards, among other rules.

State Department of Health Long Term Care Service Oklahoma Association of Area Agencies on Aging Compare nursing homes Attorney General Patient Abuse and Medicaid Fraud Control...


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BACKGROUND

Other investigations

Following are other case examples the state unit has investigated.

2007

A certified nurse’s aide was convicted in Tulsa County in 2007 on two counts of caretaker neglect after residents suffered second-degree burns when left alone in hot showers. One also suffered a head injury from a seizure in the shower. Both men were mentally challenged.

2006

A male relative of two nursing home employees was convicted in 2006 in the first-degree rape of a mentally ill woman in Garfield County. The charge nurse on the night shift said she saw the man committing the act.

2005

A certified nurse’s aide in Garfield County was convicted in 2005 of aggravated assault and battery by striking a patient with degenerative arthritis, anxiety, dementia and depression.

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