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Waddell nurses allege unfair firing

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By April Wright, Reporter

Melissa Reeves and Michelle Bateman say they didn't deserve to be fired from Waddell Nursing & Rehab after their allegations led to last month's arrests of two co-workers.

Livia Crisan, 25, of Galax, and Sharon Walker, 39, of Fries, face criminal charges accusing them of taking pornographic and inappropriate pictures of residents with their camera phones without consent. They were terminated from Waddell as a result of an investigation.

Reeves and Bateman had worked as certified nursing assistants at the Galax nursing home for more than two years.

Bateman said she was having lunch in the cafeteria one day when she saw Crisan and Walker looking at a cell phone and laughing.

“I thought it was one of those joke texts,” Bateman said. She asked what was so funny.

Bateman said she was shocked when she saw a picture revealing an elderly woman, one of the residents, using the restroom.

Reeves said she was shown a picture at another time of an elderly man fully-clothed with a scarf around his head. After Crisan showed her the picture, it was deleted.

“But we're not supposed to take any pictures of residents unless we have their written permission,” Reeves said of the nursing home's policy. “This violates their rights.”

Investigators believe the incidents occurred between April 1 and July 15.

Galax Police Chief Rick Clark could not comment on whether Bateman and Reeves were interviewed by authorities. However, Bateman said they were interviewed by both police and the Galax Department of Social Services and were told that they would be subpoenaed if needed to testify in court.

A two-sentence letter to Reeves and Bateman from Waddell Nursing & Rehab says they were terminated on Aug. 11 for “failure to appropriately and correctly report an incident or event that could adversely affect the rights and privileges and safety of our residents.”

Reeves and Bateman say that more than a month before the arrests of Crisan and Walker, they wrote an anonymous note alleging the two were taking inappropriate pictures of residents. They said they slipped it under the door of nursing home administrator Jim Wooddell.

The two women didn't identify the residents, nor did they sign their names, because they feared the accused could retaliate.

Reeves and Bateman said that not signing the letter cost them their jobs.

“We turned the abuse in and got fired for it,” said Bateman.

“[Nursing home officials] said all the bad media attention was due to the fact that we failed to mention specific residents' names in the letter and the fact that we didn't sign our names, rather than the fact of the decisions they made in relation to the allegations. However, this report was made in all good faith and to the best of our abilities.”

Wooddell said he could not comment on personnel matters or the termination of any employees. Waddell Nursing & Rehab is operated by Autumn Corporation.

Reeves and Bateman said they slipped the note under the door on June 21. According to police, that's when the investigation began — as a result of an anonymous note.

Reeves said that prior to the arrests, she also made a complaint to the head nurse when she saw an employee cursing at residents.

“[Wooddell] said he didn’t know anything about [the alleged abuse], but I knew he did, because I left the letter under the door,” Reeves said. “He was saying, ‘If I knew something about this earlier I could have done something about it.' He did know.”

When contacted by The Gazette on Friday, Wooddell refused to comment on how long he knew of the abuse allegations before it was reported to police.

Reeves and Bateman said they are talking with attorneys.

“I'm not going to just let this go,” said Reeves. “We're going to do something about it.”

They have applied for various positions, ranging from retail to nursing to manufacturing, but are concerned they won't be able to find jobs due to the recent incident.

“We tried to look out for the patients,” said Reeves. “We want people to know what happened and that people cared.”

Crisan and Walker were terminated on July 27. They are to appear in Galax General District Court for a hearing on Sept. 21.