SINGAPORE — Angered by a nursing home resident who kept pressing his bed’s call bell, a male nurse punched the elderly victim several times on his chest, then aimed a kick at the wheelchair-bound man.
Flores Alvin Jay Vargas, a 36-year-old Filipino, was jailed for 16 weeks on Wednesday (23 December) after he pleaded guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt to the 67-year-old victim. The latter had been a resident of the home since 2017 following a traffic accident that caused him brain trauma.
Flores was employed at All Saints Home, located in Jurong East, as an enrolled nurse and was tasked to care for residents.
At about 6pm on 25 May last year, the victim asked for a knife to cut an apple but was told by a female nursing aide that that she could not provide him knife.
Upset, the victim threw a tantrum and repeatedly pressed the call bell on the wall behind his bed. Flores then approached the victim and tried to explain why they could not give him a knife, but the victim continued to repeatedly press the bell.
When the nursing aide tried to turn off the bell, the victim began pressing the handheld staff assistance bell, prompting Flores to try to pull it away from him.
During the scuffle, the victim pulled at and tore Flores’ shirt, angering Flores.
The nurse then punched the victim a few times on the chest, kicked his bed frame and kicked him on the right side of his body. His actions were witnessed by two nursing aides, who told him to stop.
Two days later, the victim’s 73-year-old brother visited the victim and and was told by the victim that a male nurse had attacked him a few days before. An on-duty doctor then examined the victim, observing that there was tenderness on his chest. The man was later conveyed to the hospital.
A medical report dated 5 July last year stated that there were suspected fractures to two of his ribs, and the victim was hospitalised for a week.
He was referred to Jurong Community Hospital on 2 June last year for rehabilitation. Subsequent medical reports were unable to confirm if there were actual fractures.
Told colleague to lie
After the incident came to light, Flores messaged one of the nursing aides, instructing her to lie that he had not punched the victim. The woman initially gave the police a false statement stating that she had not witnessed the attack.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Niranjan Ranjakunalan sought at least 16 weeks’ jail for Flores, stating that the nurse had breached his duty of care and had attacked a vulnerable victim.
He pointed out that the victim did not receive medical attention for two days, and that Flores had asked others to cover up his action.
In mitigation, Flores’ lawyer Rajendra Prasad said Flores was the sole breadwinner supporting his parents and a child back in the Philippines.
“My client is deeply remorseful and realises his mistake and wrongdoing. He is a first-time offender with no previous record, and he solemnly promises not to break law in future,” said the lawyer.
“The decision to send (the victim) for medical attention was made by nursing home. My client should not be held responsible for the delay your honour,” added Prasad.
Flores also told the court that he was placed on a week’s leave of absence by the home before being dismissed.
In sentencing Flores, District Judge Jasvender Kaur said, “Patients in nursing homes, by virtue of their condition, may sometimes be challenging but these patients should be safe and cared for by nurses who will keep their interests front and centre at all times.”
“This is not a case where there was a single punch that might be said or attributed to momentary loss of temper,” added the judge.
For voluntarily causing hurt to the victim, Flores could have been jailed up to two years, fined up to $5,000, or both.
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