A former registered nurse in New Jersey has been indicted for allegedly slapping and manhandling a 23-year-old ventilator-dependent, paralyzed man she had been hired to care for in his home, authorities said Tuesday.
Dorothea Harvilik, 64, faces up to 18 months in state prison if convicted of the fourth-degree assault charge contained in the indictment handed up by a grand jury Monday.
The alleged abuse was captured on a hidden camera set up by the patient's mother, who had suspected her son was being mistreated, officials say. Harvilik, of Saddle River, is the third caregiver in recent weeks charged with patient abuse by New Jersey's Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.
The video, and other caught-on-tape examples of alleged patient abuse, prompted the state to create its “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," New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a statement. "As this indictment shows, hidden cameras not only expose patient abuse, they can provide the ‘smoking-gun’ evidence that helps bring abusers to justice."
The precise time of the alleged abuse in Harvilik's case wasn't immediately clear, but it was some time before November, when the State Board of Nursing permanently revoked her license.
Her attorney did not immediately respond to phone or email messages seeking comment Tuesday.