Monday, April 28 2014 10:10 PM EDT2014-04-29 02:10:25 GMT
Highlands Regional Medical Center and its attorney are upset that 8 On Your Side is asking questions about how a 15-year-old girl was sexually molested in the hospital's intensive care unit.More >>
Highlands Regional Medical Center and its attorney are upset that 8 On Your Side is asking questions about how a 15-year-old girl was sexually molested in the hospital's intensive care unit. More >>
HIGHLANDS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -
People go to hospitals to be healed, not sexually molested. But an 8 On Your Side investigation confirmed a 15-year-old Highlands county girl, who was heavily medicated and sedated at Highlands Regional Medical Center, was sexually molested in her ICU bed.
The hospital, its parent company and attorneys say, it is her fault.
We have given the mother and her daughter, who is the victim of a sex crime, aliases to protect their identities.
"I get angry, because not only did you not protect my daughter, but then you're going to blame it on a 15 year old, who was in your ICU," the girl's mother said.
The mother who we will call Michelle, is filled with heartbreak, shock and outrage.
Against her orders, on a July night in 2012, nurses at Highlands Regional Medical Center, allowed 16 year old Jesse Maness into the intensive care unit to visit Michelle's daughter, who we will call Jenny.
"I said under no circumstances is this person allowed in, he was trouble," Michelle said.
Michelle wasn't just a mom. She was also the chief nursing officer at the hospital.
According to the hospital's current website, only immediate family is allowed to visit ICU patients.
Her daughter was in ICU being treated for a serious infection. Michelle says the only night she left Jenny alone, was the night Maness showed up.
The next morning an ICU nurse pulled Michelle aside and told her Maness, Jenny's on again, off again boyfriend, with whom she was sexually involved, had indeed been allowed into Jenny's room.
Nurses told Michelle, they caught Maness in bed with Jenny, not once, but twice.
Then the jaw dropping news.
"She said I don't know how to tell you this, I hope it's nothing, but I found this on the floor in your daughter's room, and it was an open condom wrapper," Michelle said.
But she had yet to learn the worst.
Weeks later Michelle confirmed, Maness had sexual intercourse with her daughter that night in July, while Jenny lay in her bed, under the influence of multiple pain killers and sedatives, including morphine and percocet.
"You know, why did they let him in? Why did they let him in and close the door? Why did they find him in the bed and yet let it happen again? How long was he allowed in there?" Michelle asked.
All questions Michelle has asked for nearly two years.
Questions Brian Hess, the Chief Operating Officer of Highlands Regional at the time Jenny was molested, isn't answering.
Hess declined to discuss the incident when approached by 8 On Your Side and just walked away.
But Michelle isn't going away.
She contacted the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.
In a recorded interview with a Highlands County Sheriff's investigator, obtained by 8 On Your Side, Maness spilled it.
"Can you tell me what happened when you went to the hospital," investigator Kevin Gentry asked.
"We had sex," Maness quickly responded.
Gentry asked Maness if Jenny slurred her words or said anything weird during the incident in ICU.
"Did she act any different to you when she was in the hospital," Gentry inquired.
"No sir, she acted normal to me. I mean, like she was tired a lot," Maness responded.
Prosecutors charged Maness as a juvenile with lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor and molestation of a child, both felonies. Even if Jenny had let it happen, a 15 year old cannot legally consent to sex.
According to a letter from a prosecutor, Maness was adjudicated delinquent, placed on probation, ordered to complete 20 hours of community service, have no contact with the victim, write a letter of apology to the victim, attend school full time with no unexcused absences or referrals. Sex offender treatment was also ordered.
Then Michelle set her sites on the hospital. She sued Highlands Regional and its parent company Health Management Associates Inc., for negligence.
Hess refused to discuss the matter in person, when approached, so 8 On Your Side reached out again, by telephone. He has not responded.
St. Petersburg attorney Sam Heller, from the firm Heller/Goldberg, represents Michelle and her daughter.
Heller says what happened to Jenny represents an egregious and systemic failure by Health Management Associates, Inc. and Highlands Regional Medical Center to provide a safe environment for its patients.
"It is unfathomable that a 15 year old girl under heavy sedation in the intensive care unit was sexually molested," Heller said.
During the last nine weeks, 8 On Your Side reviewed law enforcement reports, prosecutor affidavits and hundreds of pages of court documents related to Michelle's lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims despite explicit instructions, ICU employees permitted Maness to enter Jenny's room, where they observed him in bed with her. And while Jenny was heavily sedated, Maness had nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her.
Court records also show, the hospital and its attorney Barbara Flanagan blame Jenny and her mother for what happened. The hospital claims mother and daughter's negligence was the sole or contributing cause of Jenny's injuries.
Neither Hess, nor Flanagan would explain that accusation when approached.
"We don't have any comment, step aside," Flanagan ordered.
"You want them to admit they were wrong, that they should have protected her, and sorry is not going to fix it, but I think she deserves it," Michelle said.
Thus far the hospital has admitted nothing.
In fact, Michelle received a letter from Highlands Regional Medical Center's director of risk management, Lynn Grace.
The letter thanked Michelle for notifying the hospital of her concerns about what Michelle claims happened to Jenny in ICU. Grace wrote that an in-depth internal investigation was conducted and, "The internal investigation did not identify any objective evidence to support allegations of abuse during your daughter's hospitalization."
That left Michelle stunned, because seven months earlier Maness was questioned by law enforcement and confessed to molesting Jenny in ICU.
"I think people should know when there is a company or a hospital that can't be trusted, doesn't care about taking care of people and even when they do find out that something like this has happened, and it is so alarming, they choose to do nothing about it," Michelle said.
Friday, July 25 2014 5:38 PM EDT2014-07-25 21:38:43 GMT
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