A defense attorney says a former Wisconsin nurse is prepared to plead guilty to hurting infants in a Madison hospital’s intensive care unit from which he was suspended last year.
Christopher Kaphaem, 43, faces 19 felony counts involving nine infants.
WKOW-TV reported that Kaphaem’s attorney, Jonas Bednarek, notified the court of the plea in a letter on Sept. 16.
Bednarek wrote that his client “is prepared to accept responsibility and enter pleas of guilty to the charges contained in the information … at his next scheduled court appearance or at any hearing set by the court,” according to WKOW-TV.
According to the complaint, police began investigating reports of injuries to infants in UnityPoint Health-Meriter Hospital’s infant intensive care unit in February 2018. Hospital staff had documented injuries to nine infants, including bruising, broken ribs, broken legs, and a fractured skull.
Investigators keyed in on Kaphaem, who worked the night shift in the unit, after other nurses told them that he had cared for the babies.
They said Kaphaem often closed the door to the infants’ rooms when he checked on them, ignored alarms, never asked for help, and once said he was happy to work with infants because he didn’t have to deal with patients talking back to him.
The complaint doesn’t indicate whether investigators ever spoke with Kaphaem or discuss a possible motive.
WKOW-TV quoted Dr. Barbara Knox, a child abuse pediatrician, who examined one of the injured babies. Knox stated in this report that the baby suffered 17 fractures, and that the baby’s skull fracture “did not occur from birth.”
“This would have been something that would have occurred from either a direct blow to the child, so something striking his head or his head being struck into something,” he told WKOW-TV.
“[The rib injuries] are indicative of someone performing forces to that child. Typically, squeeze-type forces that are in way excess of any normal care.”
According to another WKOW-TV report, Kaphaem has been a nurse at Meriter for fourteen years. A source told WKOW that Kaphaem had worked before for UW Health University Hospital and that the hospital had fired him.
Meriter suspended Kaphaem on Feb. 8, 2018, and state regulators later suspended his license.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services inspected the hospital days after it suspended Kaphaem in February 2018 and issued a scathing report saying the facility didn’t do enough to prevent the injuries.
The failure was so serious it constituted an immediate threat to patient health safety and the hospital’s Medicare contract could be terminated if the problem isn’t fixed, the report said.
The hospital issued a statement offering several improvements.
WKOW reported that Meriter has since installed around the clock video monitoring in infant intensive care unit rooms.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.