PEMBROKE PINES (CBSMiami) – CBS4 News has obtained surveillance video from inside the South Florida State Hospital in Pembroke Pines that police say shows a mentally ill patient being left in a closed room for more than 40-minutes while a nurse, who was supposed to be providing him one-on-one care, sat outside the door and listened to him bang on the door to be let out.
The video is from last December around midnight. It shows patient Morris Celnikier, 62, being led into a “comfort room” by a nurse described in a Pembroke Pines Police report as Debra Judge-Thomas. According to the police report, the nurse said Celnikier hit her and he needed to cool off.
The video shows Celnikier, who suffered from schizophrenia, entering the room. The lights go out and the door is shut. Investigators say Judge-Thomas’ actions putting Celnikier in a closed room and leaving him there alone was in violation of a supervisor’s orders. While in the room, Celnikier walked around, apparently looking for a way out. He banged on the door and fooled with a window. He fell on the floor numerous times, soiled himself and eventually — more than 40 minutes later — another nurse escorted Celnikier from the room.
Celnikier’s sister, Vivian Celnikier-Mechaber, said watching the video is painful.
“It’s a shame that vulnerable people have to go through this negligence,” she told CBS4’s Carey Codd. “2014, in the United States of America for that to happen? It’s unacceptable.”
The report says Celnikier then “started pounding on the door attempting to get out but Judge-Thomas who was sitting outside by the door did not take any action to let him out.” The report says Celnikier soiled himself and fell off a bed several times hitting his head and back on concrete causing broken ribs, a fractured back and numerous bruises that his sister, Vivian Celnikier-Mechabar, remembers seeing.
“Bruises all over like somebody beat him with a boot or a fist,” she said.
Celnikier’s sister wonders why no one who was watching this video as it unfolded helped her brother.
“They should have acted right away,” she said.
After he left the facility, Morris Celnikier stayed in several hospitals and nursing homes to recuperate from his injuries. He died from choking earlier this year. His sister is suing the company that runs the hospital, Geo Care, to make sure that what happened to her brother never happens again.
“What I’m trying to do in his memory is at least that his death was not in vain and that maybe other people won’t suffer what he suffered,” Celnikier-Mechaber said.
The attorney for Celnikier’s family, Paul Layne, told CBS4 News that the hospital had a responsibility to Morris Celnikier.
“They deliberately violated the rules of care that applied to Mr. Celnikier,” Layne said.
Judge-Thomas told CBS4 News back in April when we first reported on this case that she did not neglect Morris Celnikier and that she “did what the nurse told her to do.” She said she is the “fall guy” and was fired from the hospital after the incident.
The police report says several co-workers of Debra Judge-Thomas told detectives that she violated the rules of the hospital with her treatment of Morris Celnikier.
CBS4 News called Geo Care for comment on this case but no one returned our calls.