Former Midwestern Nurse Pleads Guilty to Breaking Bones and Bruising Sick Babies

October 1, 2019 Updated: October 1, 2019

A Wisconsin health professional pleaded guilty to causing ill babies to suffer broken bones and bruising on Sept. 30.

Former Nurse Christopher Kaphaem, 44, admitted he left nine infants with broken legs, ribs, and bruising at the UnityPoint Health-Meriter Hospital’s intensive care unit in Madison.

Kaphaem pleaded guilty to all 19 felony counts and provided no reason for why he allegedly committed the cruel acts while working the night shift between March 2017 and Feb. 2018, according to the Associated Press (AP).

His Attorney, Jonas Bednarek, previously notified the court his client was “prepared to accept responsibility and enter pleas of guilty” in a letter according to AP.

Other court documents obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal also provide no explanation for why he claimed to inflict harm on the babies according to AP.

Nurses claimed Kaphaem would often close the door to the infants’ rooms when he checked on them, regularly ignored alarms, never asked for help, and once said he was happy to work with infants because they did not talk back to him according to AP.

Hospital staff documented a variety of injuries to the infants, including bruising, broken ribs, broken legs, and even a fractured skull. The hospital responded to this by suspending Kaphaem on Feb. 8, 2018. State regulators resorted to the extraordinary measure of suspending his nursing license to prevent him from practicing elsewhere on Mar. 19, 2018.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a damning report, accusing the facility of not doing enough to prevent the injuries after conducting a thorough inspection of the hospital just days after Kaphaem was suspended.

According to the report obtained by AP, the failure was so acute it constituted an immediate threat to patient health safety, and the hospital’s Medicare contract risked being terminated unless the problem was resolved.

The hospital confirmed the facility was “devastated by what happened.”

“While we are deeply saddened by these recent events, we are determined to learn from them, regain your confidence and serve our patients for generations to come,” the hospital said in a statement obtained by AP.

The hospital committed to immediately dismissing Kaphaem, cooperating with authorities, installing around-the-clock surveillance cameras in the infant intensive care unit, and setting up a telephone hotline for anyone concerned about care in the unit.

Kaphaem now faces the prospect of being sentenced for up to 148 years in prison. The 19th felony of intentional child abuse causing great bodily harm carries a maximum penalty of 25 years behind bars according to AP.

A sentencing hearing was not set at the time of publication.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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