Former nurse speaks out after death of Alzheimer's patient

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A former employee of the Cherry Hills Community and Rehabilitation Center said she is saddened by the death of 75-year-old George Macias. But she said she believes the facility could have done more to prevent such a tragedy.

The woman worked as a nurse for Cherry Hills for six months and resigned this past January.

Macias was a patient at the nursing home and suffered from Alzheimer's disease. He walked away from Cherry Hills on Sunday while wearing an ankle monitoring device. Searchers found his body later the same day in a ravine two miles away from the Cherry Hills facility.

The nurse has asked not to be identified, but said she felt it was important to speak out.

"It's for the patients. That's the only reason I decided to do it," said the nurse.

She described to us what she experienced working in the facility.

"The ankle bracelets rarely worked 100 percent of the time. They (Cherry Hills administrators) knew that. Not only that - we never had enough. They (facility administrators) say they are Alzheimer's dementia equipped. They're far from that. "

"They knew not every door was not alarmed for that security band," she added.

She said she believes the facility took patients it didn't have resources to handle.

"We have to look at the entire photo of the patient to make sure we can meet their needs," said the nurse, describing how she thinks homes should decide whether to take in patients.

"If we cannot meet their needs, then we should not take that patient. We should maybe refer that patient to somebody who may or look at how we can meet their needs if we are able to. The person who makes the final decision would sometimes take in patients knowing we could not meet their needs," she said.

When asked if she brought these concerns to her superiors, she claimed she had.

"Yes. I voiced several concerns. In  writing and also as well as in person," said the nurse.

The nurse said nothing changed when she spoke up, so she quit her job. She said she hopes speaking up again will help change things now.

"If that was my loved one in that home, I would hope someone would come forward and let us know," she said.

We contacted Cherry Hills for a comment and they issued us the following statement.

"Our hearts and sympathies are with the family that lost their loved one.  The administration and staff at Cherry Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center continue to be absolutely committed to the safety and well-being of our residents.

We are conducting an internal investigation and working with authorities to determine what happened and to identify any corrective action that may need to be taken."

We followed up with additional questions by email concerning the allegations made by this nurse. A spokesman replied to our questions with the following statement:

"The fact is that all of the doors in the facility are, and have been, equipped with alarm systems. We are currently working with authorities to determine how the resident was able to leave the facility despite having alarms on all of the doors."

The facility declined our request to come in and see the monitoring system and would not answer any additional questions.

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