7 ex-nurses indicted after broken finger leads to amputation

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Seven former nurses have been charged with criminal neglect in the case of a woman who needed her hand amputated after a broken finger wasn't treated properly, officials announced Tuesday.

An indictment issued last month said seven Vineland Developmental Center nurses failed to aid the "physical or mental health" of resident Wendy Hart, whom officials described as physically and mentally disabled.

Prosecutors alleged the nurses wrapped a bandage around Hart's hand so tightly that it developed gangrene and had to be amputated in April 2012, according to a state Department of Health and Human Services report.

An orthopedic surgeon who saw Hart that month reported that the hand was tightly wrapped with no fingers exposed.

He said the bandage "was wrapped so tight only God could have removed it."

Officials said two of the defendants were registered nurses and the others are licensed practical nurses.

They are charged with endangering the welfare of a disabled person. Four of the nurses are also charged with official misconduct and falsifying or tampering with records.

All seven nurses were fired from the center; an additional practical nurse who wasn't criminally charged was also fired over the case.

Joe Waite, associate director of The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2215, of which the practical nurses are members, said the length of time between the amputation and indictments reflects a broken system.

"It's terrible, I understand, and am very sympathetic to the patients," Waite said. "But for criminal charges to be brought three years after the fact and not even have a hearing? ... There is no fairness."

An arraignment was held Monday in Cumberland County Superior Court.

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