Webster House fights $20,000 fine over sexual abuse of patient

Jeremias Frago-Rodriguez, 63, a nursing assistant at Webster House, was arrested on June 13. Palo Alto Police Department photo.
Jeremias Frago-Rodriguez, 63, a nursing assistant at Webster House, was arrested on June 13. Palo Alto Police Department photo.

BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer

Webster House, a retirement community in Palo Alto, has been cited and fined $20,000 by the California Department of Public Health after an elderly resident was allegedly sexually abused by a nursing assistant.

In response, Webster House has filed a lawsuit, contesting the health department’s citation.

Jeremias Frago-Rodriguez, 63, who worked as a nursing assistant at Webster House, was arrested on June 13 by Palo Alto police after a Webster House employee reported to the police that a patient in her 70s said she had been sexually assaulted.

The health department conducted an investigation, which concluded in July, into the incident based on a complaint.

The victim had muscle weakness and other mobility issues, according to a July investigation by the Department of Public Health.

On June 9, Frago-Rodriguez was supposed to be giving the elderly victim a sponge bath when he allegedly began sucking on her nipples, according to the investigation. He also forcibly performed an intimate act on her, exposed himself to her and attempted to rape her. After the incident, the woman had trouble sleeping and had pain in her groin area.

The victim reported the assault to a Webster House staff member the next day, according to the investigation. Frago-Rodriguez was fired on June 13, the same day the police arrested him, according to the investigation.

Webster House filed their complaint contesting the citation in court on Oct. 2.

Laura Darling, a spokeswoman for Covia, the company that owns Webster House, said Webster House isn’t contesting the seriousness of the incident, but does not agree that it failed to protect its residents. The residents will pay the price if the fine is higher than is warranted since there will be less money for their care, said Darling.

Darling said the Webster House was proactive and responded appropriately to the allegations.

But she said the center has reviewed its policies, including its hiring policies, in light of the incident.

2 Comments

  1. What kind of nursing home would allow a male attendant to bathe a female patient? The whole place ought to be shut down and new management brought in.

  2. This is not as rare a form of elder abuse as you might believe. There are many fine Certified Nursing Assistants (certified by the State of CA), working to make life better for residents in nursing homes. I know of several cases where CNAs sexually &r psychologically abused residents, and were quietly “let go” by the facility management. They can then apply and be hired by a different company just far enough away (like the next county or different part of the state) that their reputation doesn’t follow. The first company most often won’t be included as a job reference, or the cause for resignation doesn’t appear in facility HR records. And if it did, employers are universally unwilling to divulge any information of this sort to the next HR caller. The abuser slips through the cracks. Recently, there have been cases where the abuser worked in 3 or 4 different facilities before being arrested. Thanks to local investigators, PDs and CA DOJ agents working to bring these bottom feeders to justice. My advice to families with a loved one in any skilled nursing home is to be onsite as much as possible. Even if it means working out a “duty schedule” among siblings & friends. Seriously, with 3 shifts of personnel providing care to the person you love, there is plenty of room for error and opportunity.

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