Family Court Orders Human Services to Return Sea View Resident

A family court judge ordered Human Services Acting Commissioner Anita Roberts to return an elderly resident to Sea View Nursing Home. The unnamed individual was summarily removed, along with nine others, in a government action carried out September 26.
Photo courtesy of Judi Shimel. [hr gap=”1″]

ST. THOMAS — A family court judge in Superior Court declared the commissioner of Human Services in contempt of court over the recent forced removal of a senior resident from Sea View Nursing Home.

According to documents obtained through nursing home administrators, Family Court Judge Deborah Smith Watlington said Human Services Commissioner Anita Roberts violated a court order. The order pertained to one male resident at the Bovoni nursing home.

Family Court matters differ from other court records because public access is restricted. The name of the person who is the subject of the order is kept confidential.

An informed source at Sea View said the judge issued a new order Thursday, directing Roberts and other Human Service officials to return the individual to Sea View.

Ten residents were summarily taken from the nursing home Sept. 26 at Robert’s direction. Three were taken to the Schneider Regional Medical Center, which sent them back.

The remainder, including the man who was subject to the court order, were moved to the Queen Louise Home for the Aged.

The Acting DHS commissioner said she took executive action after receiving a letter from the U.S. Department of Human Services asking her agency to draft an emergency relocation plan.

An inquiry to Government House spokeswoman Cherise Munchez was not responded to.

Commissioner Roberts answered a query from another local news outlet, saying the court’s new order to return the male patient to Sea View was followed.

Sea View, the only skilled nursing home in the Virgin Islands, has been home to some of its elderly, disabled residents for up to 20 years. Financial struggles and compliance problems with regulators from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services led to the loss of certification and health insurance reimbursements.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Kenneth Mapp met with relatives of Sea View residents. He told them their loved ones must be moved. The governor also apologized to the adult care givers and guardians for the sudden and disturbing manner in which Human Services took them away.

Judge Watlington also referenced that mistreatment at the hands of the government in the court order.

“The court, having considered the testimony and evidence, finds that the DHS acted improperly when it removed (sic) from his court-ordered placement,” the document said.

The document added that the resident and others were taken away without their medical records and without giving them time to collect their personal items.

The court further directed Human Services to pay Sea View funds owed for the care of the resident returned under court order.

Roberts reportedly said DHS is current with its payments, although lawmakers who joined Gov. Mapp at the family meeting said they saw documents indicating otherwise.