Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Sentencing of Kern Valley Health District Hospital Administrator

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

BAKERSFIELD -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the sentencing of the former hospital administrator of Kern Valley Health District, a rare case in which a hospital administrator is being held criminally responsible for conduct by a lower-ranked employee.

Pamela Ott, former hospital administrator of the Kern Valley Health District, pled no contest to one felony count of conspiracy to commit an act injurious to the public health based on her failure to adequately supervise the Director of Nursing. During Ott’s tenure as administrator, Director of Nursing Gwen Hughes administered psychotropic medications to 23 elderly residents in order to chemically restrain them for staff convenience. Three patients died.

“Ott neglected her responsibility to monitor the practices of her employees and, in doing so, she endangered the health and well-being of vulnerable residents,” Attorney General Harris said. “California has strong laws to prevent elder abuse and we will enforce them so we can protect the most vulnerable among us.”

Ott was sentenced to three years formal probation, 300 hours of volunteer service, restitution pending conclusion of civil lawsuits. She is required to comply with all orders from the Registered Nursing Board, which is conducting its own investigation into the matter.  

In July 2012, Dr. Hoshang Pormir, the Medical Director, was also sentenced to 300 hours of volunteer service, restitution pending conclusion of civil lawsuits, and a requirement to comply with all orders from the Medical Board. Pormir failed to conduct examinations of patients or monitor their reactions to medications.

In January 2007, the Department of Public Health began an investigation into complaints stemming from the Healthcare District and found that 23 residents suffered adverse reactions as a result of chemical restraints and unnecessary medications. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medical Fraud and Elder Abuse took over the case after the Department of Public Health completed its report.

Ott received complaints, some as early as September 2006, concerning Hughes’ conduct towards staff.  Several staff members also had previously informed Ott that residents were forcefully restrained and injected with medications. Ott disregarded the complaints and directed staff to comply with Hughes’ instructions.

Hughes will face a jury trial beginning October 29, 2012 in Kern County Superior Court. She is being charged with multiple felony counts of elder abuse resulting in death, elder abuse resulting in great bodily injury, and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. 

# # #