Jacksonville nursing assistant charged after patient breaks both legs

Authorities say the nursing assistant did not follow instructions during bath

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville certified nursing assistant faces a felony charge of neglect of an elderly or disabled person after an obese patient broke of her legs during a bath at a local nursing home, court documents show.

Nekeysha Sakira Cromwell, 32, was booked into the Duval County jail Thursday and later released. She faces up to five years in prison and $5,000 fines if convicted of the third-degree felony offense.

Cromwell's arrest capped a five-month long investigation into how a patient in the care of San Jose Health and Rehabilitation Center fractured both femurs. The Florida Attorney General's Office got involved after receiving a complaint from the Department of Children and Families.

An arrest warrant indicates the patient, who is approximately 400 pounds, suffered those injuries when Cromwell tried to bathe her without help. The patient fell off her bed when Cromwell rolled her over to wash her back.

Cromwell ignored instructions from a nurse and nursing assistant that the patient required special care, according to the warrant. It was standing policy at the nursing home that giving baths to patients of the victim's size was a two-person job.

The warrant stated that the patient warned Cromwell that she needed another person to turn her over, but that Cromwell did not seek help. As a result, the patient flipped over the bed rails and fell three feet to the tile floor below.

"Due to Cromwell's negligence in seeking additional assistance, as required per the medical documentation, EA [the patient] was severely injured and sustained two fractured femurs," the warrant stated. The injuries required surgery and plates and screws to hold the bones in place.

During an interview with investigators, Cromwell acknowledged that she did not ask for help. But she said no one ever told her she needed assistance with the patient's bath and she was unaware of any rules requiring her to get help.

Cromwell, a contractor with eight years of experience in the field, indicated that she decided to bathe the patient by herself because she had done so before, and she noted that co-workers were busy at the time.

Reached at home Friday, Cromwell declined to comment.

Nursing home staff did not wish to speak with a reporter on camera Friday. They did not answer questions about staffing levels at the facility.

Using state and federal databases, News4Jax reviewed the facility's history of complaints and inspections. The home received nine complaints this year, with deficiencies found in five cases.

An inspection resulting from an October complaint found no problems. But during a February tour, investigators determined the home did not report a case of suspected mistreatment, abuse or neglect to the state, according to Department of Health and Human Services records.

In that case, investigators spoke with a patient who had a large bruise and small cut above her right eye. The patient said she fell while a nursing assistant was putting her to bed, but insisted she was not the victim of abuse, reportedly saying: "I don't want to get anybody in trouble."

The bruise was first documented Feb. 12, the same day the home closed its review of a complaint from the same patient that a nursing assistant was "rude, pinched her on her leg, smacked her arm, laid her in bed naked." That complaint was reported to the state the day of the tour.

To learn more about the track records of your loved ones' nursing homes, visit the Nursing Home Compare tool provided by Medicare.gov.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.