Police on Sunday evening arrested five employees of Neot Kipat Hazahav, an elderly care facility in Haifa, on suspicion of severe abuse of residents.
The suspects – a nurse and four other employees, residents of Haifa, Nazareth and Kiryat Yam – are suspected of abuse, assault and threats against the elderly, police said. The remands of the four employees – Andre Keys, Peter Goskov, Sergie Mitrohin and Husam Abu Ahmed – were extended until Tuesday in the Haifa Magistrate’s Court. The nurse, Irena Yagudin, who is suspected of not reporting the cases of abuse, was released to a week of house arrest and forbidden to contact the other suspects or to enter the nursing home.
The arrest came after Channel 2 broadcasted an exposé into the care facility on Saturday night. According to the investigation, caretakers at the home regularly and systematically abused the elderly, often violently. Pictures and videos show a caretaker physically abusing one helpless man. Other videos show residents being put in wheelchairs for breakfast at 2 a.m.
so caretakers could get more time to sleep. Another women allegedly had her oxygen disconnected for no medical reason after refusing to eat for two weeks; she died shortly thereafter.
Neglect of patient hygiene was also documented, including denial of showers and not changing soiled mattresses.
“If you go to the social worker tomorrow, the next day I will come at night,” one caretaker threatened his patient, according to the report.
The report was triggered by a former caretaker, who went under the name “A.” to expose the facility’s practices.
“I decided to break the silence of thousands of caregivers who do not dare to say what happens in their nursing home,” the caretaker said. “I saw things that I dreamed about in my nightmares. I could go on.”
Shlomi Zuckerman, whose mother was documented on video receiving brutal abuse, told Channel 2: “The first thing we’ll do is get her out, and now we are looking for a place.
“We were shocked, we were sitting in the living room and we all cried,” Zuckerman said.
In light of the exposé, the nursing home released a statement that said: “The findings presented in the report are difficult and bleak. Upon receiving the information, we filed a complaint against the employees in question and summoned them to a hearing. We have set up an internal inquiry committee and contacted the Health Ministry that will conduct its own independent examination.”
The facility said that, with the approval of the Health Ministry, it will install a network of surveillance cameras starting this week, whereby cameras will be installed in each room, subject to the approval of the residents’ families.
“All nursing home employees will be invited for a discussion on the seriousness of the matter. We express deep regret about the findings, have updated the families, and we intend to work with them in collaboration and with complete transparency, so that we can fix at least some of the injustice that happened. The nursing home has a longstanding reputation and provides excellent care to residents.
This is a severe and unusual event that occurred in one department out of 12 departments operating in the place,” the statement said.
Public Defender Oleg Firgen, representing Mitrohin, told the press that his client denies the allegations.
“This is a 60-year-old man who works at nursing homes for many years and never had any complaints about his work,” Firgen said. “Mr.
Mitrohin is cooperating with investigators, he gave his version of events, and denies the allegations against him.”
Attorney Shosh Hayon Chayoun, representing Yagudin, said that her client is “dedicated to her patients” and “was not involved in any way.”
In a statement, police said that additional evidence has been collected and more employees are under investigation.
“The police pay very close attention to cases of abuse of helpless persons,” the Coastal District police statement said, adding that they would “bring all of those involved to justice.”
Meanwhile, the story of systematic abuse triggered widespread condemnation from the prime minister, MKs, the Health Ministry and activists. On Saturday night, Haifa residents protested in front of the nursing home.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed outrage over the abuse, addressing the incident in his opening remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
“We just read, in the weekly Torah portion Yitro, ‘Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long,’” he said.
“In our Jewish heritage, we know other quotes: ‘Do not cast me aside in old age’ and ‘Respect the elderly.’ Therefore, I was outraged to see these things, this abuse of the elderly. This goes against our Jewish values and the basic values of the State of Israel. Therefore, I expect the Health Ministry and the law enforcement authorities to deal with the abusers to the fullest extent of the law and to ensure that these events do not recur,” he said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said on his official Twitter account, “The police must investigate. The Health Ministry must go and close [the facility]. Legislation and stiff auditing – is realistic.”
Also taking to Twitter, Interior Minister Arye Deri called the report “heartbreaking,” adding, “We, as members of the government, must intervene to stop the horrors in some care homes.”
According to data released by the Welfare Ministry and the Joint Distribution Committee in 2013, 20% of the elderly in Israel experience abuse and/or neglect.
The most significant increase in complaints were reports of physical abuse.
While 510 cases were reported in 2009, some 1,070 were reported in 2012, an increase of 110%.
Last week, a caregiver was arrested on suspicion of murdering a 90-year-old man in a Jerusalem retirement home.