TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced today that a former Bergen County Registered Professional Nurse has been charged with assault on a disabled person after a video purportedly showed her slapping and roughly treating a ventilator-dependent, paralyzed patient she was hired to care for in his home.
Dorothea Harvilik, 64, of Saddle River, faces up to eighteen months in state prison if convicted of the fourth-degree assault charge contained in an indictment handed up by a state grand jury yesterday.
The footage of Harvilik’s alleged abuse of the severely disabled 26-year-old man was captured by a hidden video camera set up by his mother, who suspected her son was being mistreated. The video, and other caught-on-tape examples of patient abuse, led to the creation of New Jersey’s “Safe Care Cam” program, which offers micro-surveillance cameras free on loan to residents who suspect a loved is being mistreated by an in-home caregiver.
“The horrifying images of Nurse Harvilik striking this defenseless patient and wrenching his head as she tended to him, underscored our need to ensure that all New Jersey families, regardless of their income, have access to state-of-the art technology they need to watch over their loved ones,” said Attorney General Porrino. “As this indictment shows, hidden cameras not only expose patient abuse, they can provide the ‘smoking-gun’ evidence that helps bring abusers to justice.”
Harvilik is the third caregiver in recent weeks charged with patient abuse by the OIFP.
On February 22, former Certified Nurse Aide Adeline Philippe, 47, of Orange, was indicted on fourth-degree assault upon an institutionalized elderly person for allegedly striking and scratching a 76-year-old dementia patient under her care at the New Jersey Fireman’s Home in Boonton in August 2016.
On March 17, former Certified Nurse Aide Cairy Chrisphonte was also charged with fourth-degree assault upon an institutionalized elderly person after co-workers allegedly witnessed the 54-year-old Union resident striking an 87-year-old dementia patient in the head and arm at the Daughters of Miriam nursing home in Clifton in January.
“The allegations against these defendants shock the conscience. All three are accused of physically assaulting the very people they were entrusted to protect and care for,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “Through our vigorous prosecution of these cases, we are doing our part to advance New Jersey’s ongoing efforts to safeguard its most vulnerable citizens – the elderly and the disabled – from caregivers heartless enough to abuse them when no one is looking.”
Harvilik, Philippe, and Chrisphonte have all been stripped of their professional credentials as a result of their alleged abuse.
In November, the State Board of Nursing, within the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, permanently revoked Harvilik’s nursing license, after viewing the video of her striking the bed-bound patient.
In October, the NJ Department of Health, which regulates the Certified Nurse Aides that work in healthcare facilities, summarily suspended Philippe’s nurse aide certification, after her employer fired her and notified the Department about the alleged abuse.
Chrisphonte’s nurse aide certification was summarily suspended by the Department of Health on March 20, after she was fired by the nursing home and criminally charged.
Indictments and charges are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to eighteen months in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $5,000.