For allowing a horde of maggots to fester in the head wound of an elderly patient, a former nursing-home supervisor was sentenced yesterday in Delaware County court to four years' probation and ordered to pay $4,800 in restitution.
Donna Marie Cameron, 40, of Aston, was once director of nursing at the now-defunct St. James Retirement and Rehabilitation Center, in Chester.
She appeared for sentencing still dressed in "scrubs" - apparently the attire at her new job, where she is caring for a different kind of troubled patient.
Her attorney, Peter Callahan, told Judge Kenneth A. Clouse that Cameron obtained a new job with that employer's full knowledge of the existing case against her.
The Daily News has learned that Cameron is working at a Delaware County drug-and-alcohol-rehabilitation facility.
That was troublesome news to Shirley Mikell, director of certification and education for the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, who said that addicts often require as much care as the elderly.
"You have to pay attention to them and you have to be acutely aware of their needs," Mikell said.
The court found that Cameron was anything but aware of the needs of Patricia Holdsworth, 72, a St. James' resident suffering from skin cancer and mental-health issues. In June 2005, Holdsworth developed a deep head wound and was taken to Crozer-Chester Medical Center for treatment. Doctors there recommended that an ointment and a prescription be administered daily and that Holdsworth see a dermatologist.
Investigators from the state attorney general's office, which prosecuted the case, found that neither of the recommendations was followed properly.
A dermatologist's appointment was made in Holdsworth's name, but she was never taken to see such a specialist, said Elizabeth Dilloway Cleek, senior deputy attorney general.
Three months later, the same untreated wound began streaming blood, and Holdsworth was returned to the Crozer-Chester emergency room.
There workers received a shock when they removed her bandages and found more than 50 squirming maggots, according to court documents.
Holdsworth survived and recovered and is now living elsewhere, Cleek said.
Cleek said that as the case developed, Cameron and two other employees - nursing-unit manager Caroline Tribbey, 58, of Brookhaven, and administrator Nancy Curtis, 52, of Swarthmore - lied to a state grand jury investigating the case and falsified documents to make it appear as if Holdsworth had been given proper care.
Cameron "would have seen the maggots if she cleaned the wound properly every day," Cleek said.
Callahan told the judge that Cameron was "caught up in a quagmire . . . a situation beyond her control," as the only nurse for about 70 patients at the facility.
"But her panicking after the fact didn't make anything better," he said, referring to the allegations that Cameron had lied to the grand jury and falsified records.
Clouse seemed somewhat sympathetic to Cameron, saying that he didn't believe she had been the instigator but that she "did fail in her responsibilities as a nurse."
Cameron pleaded no contest to charges of neglect of a care-dependent person, perjury and tampering with public records. She was sentenced in Delaware County Court within the standard guidelines for her charges, Cleek said.
Tribbey and Curtis pleaded no contest to perjury and tampering with public records, and were sentenced in Dauphin County court: Tribbey to a year on probation and Curtis to four years' probation, Cleek said.
The $4,800 Cameron owes in restitution will go to the costs of investigation, which included a grand jury and an entomologist from Penn State who grew maggots in pigs' livers to determine the amount of time they festered in Holdsworth's wound, Cleek said. Cleek did not have available yesterday the amount of time it took for the maggots to grow.
According to state Board of Nursing records, Cameron's nursing license, which she received in 1989 and renewed in 2006, is still in good standing and expires in 2008. Leslie Amoros, spokeswoman for the Department of State, which oversees the nursing board, said that Cameron's license may or may not be under scrutiny.
"We can't confirm or deny if someone is under investigation," Amoros said.
"She may be in the hearing process currently, but the only actions reflected are the ones that are final," she added.
Holdsworth's family has filed a civil suit in the case, naming Cameron and St. James as defendants. St. James was closed by the state Public Welfare Department last year. *