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Letter Supports Suspended Edgemoor Nurse

Times Staff Writer

A nurse suspected of trying to cover up the circumstances surrounding the drowning of a patient in one of her wards at Edgemoor Geriatric Hospital sent a thorough report on the accident to a county attorney in December, two weeks after the patient died, her labor union representative said Wednesday.

Gertrude Shaw, a supervising nurse suspended for eight weeks after a 66-year-old woman was left unattended in a bathtub and drowned, sent the report to Deputy County Counsel Paul Bruce on Dec. 26, said County Employees Assn. Representative Pat Vetere.

Vetere said the document shows that Shaw made no attempt to hide the fact that nurses assistant Alverta (Pearl) Martin left patient Josephine Noonan alone in the tub on the morning of Dec. 10, contrary to state regulations and Edgemoor rules.

“I asked did you leave her,” Vetere quoted from Shaw’s letter, referring to her conversation with Martin. “She stated, ‘Yes, I gave her a bath, did her hair and she asked me was I going to fix it. So I went to get a comb.’ ”

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Shaw has denied that she tried to hide Martin’s error and is appealing her suspension in a Civil Service Commission hearing. Vetere claims Shaw is unfairly being made a scapegoat for all the county’s problems at Edgemoor, the much criticized hospital where the county’s poor, elderly and disabled go when they have nowhere else to turn.

The hearing was halted Wednesday after Vetere tried to introduce Shaw’s letter into the proceedings and thus make it available to the press and public.

Deputy County Counsel Susan Boyle, representing the Health Services Department, objected, saying the letter was part of attorney Bruce’s “work product” and was protected by attorney-client privilege.

After lengthy consultation with her attorney, who is also a deputy county counsel, Commissioner Darlee Crockett decided to accept the document but to keep it sealed and to close from the public any future sessions at which the letter is discussed. After reading the letter, she said Vetere’s representation of its contents was accurate.

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Vetere, who had already read portions of the document to reporters attending the hearing, was then granted time to confer with his attorney. Because of scheduling conflicts, the hearing is set to resume Tuesday.


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