Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the State Board of Nursing has temporarily suspended the certification of a certified homemaker-home health aide (“CHHA”) who was arrested for allegedly assaulting an elderly resident of the Camden County psychiatric hospital where she worked.
Debra L. Matela, 43, of Turnersville, was arrested on February 26 and charged with simple assault on an institutionalized elderly person for allegedly causing a 73-year-old mentally ill resident to fall from her wheelchair while Matela was working as a Certified Nurse Aide (“CNA”) at the Northbrook Behavioral Health Hospital in Blackwood.
In addition to her CNA certification, which is issued by the Department of Health, Matela is certified by the Board of Nursing as a CHHA. After receiving notice of Matela’s arrest, the Board moved to investigate the allegations and suspend Matela’s CHHA certification. Matela voluntarily surrendered her certification pending the disposition of all criminal charges against her and pending further action by the Board, according to a Consent Order with the Board.
“Any time a certified homemaker-home health aide is arrested, either on or off the job, it raises serious concerns about their ability to provide quality care. But when the charges involve an assault on an elderly patient, swift intervention is needed to protect the public,” said Attorney General Porrino. “By moving quickly to obtain a temporary suspension of this CHHA’s certification, we are fulfilling our commitment to protect vulnerable elderly patients from the threat of abuse.”
“Certified homemaker-home health aides spend long stretches alone with patients, many of whom cannot fend for themselves. It is imperative that they are held to the highest professional standards possible,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Until these disturbing allegations are resolved, this individual will be prohibited from working as a certified home healthcare provider.”
The Department of Health summarily suspended Matela’s CNA certification following her arrest.
CHHAs are employees of health care service firms that work under the direction of registered professional nurses to perform tasks for elderly, disabled, or sick patients. CHHAs help patients dress, take a bath, and use the toilet or bedpan. They may also prepare patient meals, do light laundering, tidy the patient's room, run errands and assist with exercise regimens.