Nightingale Nursing Home found guilty of mistreating elderly resident
The nursing home accused of mistreating an elderly female resident last year has been found guilty.
In April 2012, the Health Ministry had charged the Home under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act.
The highest penalty for failing to provide quality care is a fine of up to $20,000 and jail of up to two years where applicable.
Tan Choo Waoh, 65, director of Nightingale Nursing Home, today admitted on behalf of the Home, to its failure to provide optimal quality care to former resident, 77-year-old Madam Peh Siew Lay.
Nightingale was suspended last April 2011 from admitting new patients, after its staff were caught on video mistreating a female resident.
The incident happened some time between November and December 2010 and was secretly filmed by the woman's son.
It was later televised on Channel NewsAsia.
In the video, the patient was flung onto a bed and slapped by staff of the nursing home.
Separately, Nightingale Nursing Home was also convicted on 10 counts relating to illegal deployment and false declaration to the Manpower Ministry.
In court today, Tan, who was dressed in all black, also admitted to five charges of making Nightingale staff work beyond the stipulated duration of 44 hours a week, as well as five charges of not paying them for overtime work.
Apart from Nightingale and Tan, Greenview Nursing Home was found guilty of illegally deploying its foreign workers on five counts.
Court documents showed that the two nursing homes illegally deployed nursing aides to be cheerleaders, to work at football games and as general or administrative staff.
The fourth party in this case - Civic Ambulance Services, was also convicted on five counts of falsely declaring employees' salary to be $1,800 a month.
Tan, who is a director at the three organisations, represented the parties as well as herself in court.
A total of 56 other MOM charges levelled on the four parties were taken into consideration.
In pleading for leniency, Tan's defence lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh told the court that this case has been particularly hard on his client.
Mr Davinder said Tan has devoted much of her life to nursing and having to be called to court is just "devastating".
He stressed that Tan did not go into nursing to profit from it.
On Nightingale's charges, Mr Davinder said the nursing home has been in the business since 1990 and in the span of 18 years or so, this is its first brush with the law.
He pointed out that the Health Ministry's prosecution did not ask for a high fine as it is not warranted.
Mr Davinder highlighted in the Nightingale case that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the system of care but "an abberation".
The abuse stemmed from three individuals who lost their temper.
He added that the nursing home took action to reprimand the individuals involved and the one who slapped the old woman, the other 2 who flung her onto bed still around) has left the service.
It committed an offence only because it has been let down by the people.
On the manpower charges relating to illegal deployment, Mr Davinder said the duration involved was very short and that Tan did not benefit economically from the acts.
At one point, Mr Davinder told the court that the power of the new media has generated much publicity and brought embarrassment to Tan and Nightingale.
Shame and embarrassment, he said, can be deterrents.
Moving on to Greenview and Civic Ambulance, Mr Davinder cited positive testimonials and credentials of the two organisations.
On making the staff work longer hours than regulated and not paying the workers for clocking overtime, he said those were oversights.
The court heard that Tan was only alerted to these during investigations and as of now, the staff have been paid over and above what was owed to them.
But the prosecution argued that by making the staff work longer than required, it leaves them less room to perform better in giving care to residents and patients.
The Manpower Ministry's Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Tay said roping in the staff to do cheerleading and work at football matches add on to their workload, which is not entirely good for their welfare.
Both the prosecution and defence have asked for fines.
The four parties will be sentenced on 18 September.
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