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Nurse Held in Insulin Case Barely Knew Victim

Times Staff Writer

The nurse accused of calling in a fake insulin prescription for hospitalized AIDS patient Edward Lebowitz and stealing tens of thousands of dollars from Lebowitz’s bank and credit card accounts in the few days before the patient died apparently knew Lebowitz for only one working shift before initiating his alleged crimes, his employers said Monday.

Speaking publicly for the first time on the case, the owners and the attorney for Healthfolk Home Health Care, a nursing registry in Van Nuys, said that Hal Speers Rachman, 39, now being held without bail in the Santa Monica jail, had been assigned to care for Lebowitz on Sept. 17.

Rachman attended to Lebowitz, a 48-year-old entertainment lawyer, for a single shift on that day, at the end of which time he drove him to St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica and registered him there, said the firm’s attorney, George Juarez. That was also the only shift Rachman ever worked for Healthfolk, the lawyer said.

No Other Assignment

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In a statement drafted for Healthfolk’s president, Nikko E. Ashton, Juarez said the firm had decided not to assign Rachman to any other cases after Ashton discovered that Rachman had taken certain confidential training documents from a Healthfolk orientation session.

The statement said that before being affiliated with the firm “as an independent contract nurse,” Rachman had been carefully screened by Healthfolk, a firm organized earlier this year to provide home nursing care for AIDS patients.

“He was personally interviewed,” according to the statement. "(He) passed a written nursing and pharmacology screening test. His state of California nursing credentials were checked and found valid. A reference check showed Rachman was affiliated and currently active with a nursing registry, Associated Health Professionals Inc. of Culver City, Calif., since July, 1985, and they gave no negative employment comments.”

Rachman almost certainly did not know Lebowitz before being assigned to provide nursing care to him, said Ashton’s husband, David. “He did not ask for Lebowitz, nor could he have known beforehand we had him as one of our patients,” he said.

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“To the best of our understanding, he didn’t take any materials from us on Lebowitz,” he added.

Police Version

According to Santa Monica police, two days after registering Lebowitz at St. John’s, Rachman telephoned the hospital, pretending to be Lebowitz’s physician and prescribed a dose of insulin that put him in a coma. Four days later, on Sept. 23, Lebowitz died, although the coroner’s office said that he died of metastic Kaposi’s sarcoma, a form of cancer, and other complications of AIDS, not the insulin injection.

During the period between registering Lebowitz in the hospital and Lebowitz’s death, Rachman, according to police, is also suspected of using Lebowitz’s bank and credit cards, apparently taken while he was nursing him, to debit Lebowitz’s accounts for tens of thousands of dollars.

Police said Monday they will announce on Wednesday what formal charges they will seek against Rachman.

Speaking Monday night on behalf of Healthfolk, Juarez said:

“This is a home care agency only. Once the patient goes into the hospital, he ceases being under Healthfolk’s care. Nobody at Healthfolk had any idea that there was any contact between (Lebowitz) and (Rachman) after he (Lebowitz) was in the hospital. . . .

Beyond Scope of Duties

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“As far as Healthfolk was concerned, there was no reason for the suspect to have had any contact (after registering him in the hospital) with the victim. There was no legitimate reason for him to render any kind of health care whatsoever. This was not the province of a nurse. It was way beyond the scope of his duties. Nobody at Healthfolk knew this guy was going to call in any order to the hospital.”

The statement drafted by Juarez added that Rachman first went to Healthfolk seeking work on Sept. 2. Lebowitz, the statement went on, was referred to Healthfolk for his home care by physicians and friends. He was in the firm’s care for only two days before Rachman drove him to St. John’s.

“Healthfolk Home Health Care has and continues to cooperate fully with police agencies investigating this case,” the statement said.

David Ashton said Rachman never bothered to file a time sheet for the shift during which he cared for Lebowitz. He said that since there was no time sheet, Rachman has not been paid.


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