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Attorneys for Nurse Arrested in Pregnancy Case File Motion

By: Garin Flowers; Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida Email
By: Garin Flowers; Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida Email

Quincy, FL-December 13, 2012 -

Attorneys for a former nurse accused of neglecting a pregnant patient at Florida State Hospital want those charges dropped.

They point to two medical experts who say Kathryn Cottle didn't do anything wrong.

Cottle's attorney Sidney Matthew filed a motion earlier this week asking for the state to show how his client caused any bodily harm to a pregnant patient under her care back in December of last year.

Matthew submitted sworn affidavits from two medical experts, neither of which the attorney says could find any negligence or abuse committed by his client.

The State of Florida is alleging Cottle was negligent in her care of a pregnant patient. The patient gave birth to a child who later died.

Matthew instead blames the hospital for its lack of proper staffing and equipment and the patient's hypertension.

"They have no obstetricians,and if there was anything that happened in an emergency nature, they couldn't handle it and that's exactly what happened in this case," says Matthew.

We reached out to the state attorney for their comment on this motion. But have yet to hear back.

Cottle was fired from her job as a nurse at Florida State Hospital.

She is charged with neglect of a disabled adult. If convicted, Cottle faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The hearing for the motion is scheduled for February 7.

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Quincy, FL- November 8, 2012 - A former nurse accused of abusing and neglecting a mental patient was arraigned Thursday.

Having entered a written plea of not guilty, Kathryn Cottle was noticeably absent from her arraignment. But not the family of the alleged victim who watched from the back of the courtroom.

"They have to protect their patients. There is no excuse for what happened," says Bobbie Akins, the alleged victim's mother.

Ken Wills and Bobbie Akins are angered and heartbroken by what happened to their daughter at Florida Hospital.

The state claims neglect by the staff there resulted in their daughter's child being stillborn.

"I can't describe in words how I feel about this. This shouldn't happen to any woman," says Ken Wills, father of the alleged victim.

The Department of Children and Families fired Cottle from her job as a nurse at Florida Hospital. She has since been charged with neglect of a disabled adult. So far, Cottle is the only person to be charged in this case.

"This is very unfortunate. It's a tragic situation. But my nurse should not be scapegoated because the management of the hospital decided privatize the OB/GYN service and not follow up on it and not get to a regular hospital when she was ready to have her baby," says Cottle's attorney, Sidney Matthew.

As for the family of the alleged victim, they are now asking the Governor to revamp the way the state handles and cares for its patients.

Cottle returns to court December 13 for a case management hearing. She faces up to five years in jail, if convicted.

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Quincy, FL - Kathryn Cottle did not appear in court today.

Her attorney entered a not guilty plea.

The case management hearing is set for December 13, 2012 at 1:30pm.


Chattahoochie, FL -A former Florida State Hospital nurse accused of neglect, faces a judge next month.

Kathryn Cottle is charged with neglect of a disabled adult. She is set to be arraigned November 8 in Gadsden County.

Cottle is accused of negligence in her care of a pregnant mental patient at Florida State Hospital. The state says Cottle's negligence led to the baby being stillborn.

If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000. Cottle was fired from her position as a licensed-practical nurse.


Chattahoochie, FL - Bobbie and Kenneth Akins wrestle with hundreds of documents explaining the pain their daughter went through.

"The nurse didn't do her job," said Bobbie Akins, mother of the victim.

"I felt hurt, it was very painful and disbelief that this could happen."

In December, their daughter was going through a pregnancy at Florida State Hospital in Chattahooche, FL.

It houses substance abuse and mental health patients.

Their daughter claims a nurse ignored her cries that her baby was ready for to be born.

"We have just gone through an enormous amount of pain and suffering," said Kenneth Akins, the victim's father.

It resulted in the baby being put on life support and later dying in August.

Suspicions that negligent care caused this tragic incident costs two employees their jobs and a third to be put behind bars.

Kathryn Cottle is the nurse who was arrested. She's being charged with neglect of a disabled adult. That's a third-degree felony. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000
fine.

"Words really cannot describe the feelings I think that we share right now within our family," Kenneth said.

The family wanted to mention this is no smear campaign on the hospital or Department of Children and Families, which is over the facility.

However, they believe there was strong negligence on behalf of the staff watching over their daughter.

Joe Follick with DCF said they have made some changes to try and ensure this kind of thing never happens again.

1. Right now, nurses they hire aren't required to have any special training or certifications to deal with mental health patients, but they look for nurses with that kind of experience.

2. They're monitoring pregnant patients more closely.

3. That includes providing them with more one on one care.

4. The state is also giving specific training to current employees caring for pregnant patients.

5. Lastly, they now have a contract with caretakers that deal with OBGYN care.

There are around 900 patients under the hospital's care at any given time and the hospital averages about one pregnant person a year.

So, they said they're making sure that one person is well taken care of to prevent any more tragedies.


Attorney General Release

Chattahoochie, FL - On Thursday, 10/18, Kathryn Lynn Cottle, a Licensed Practical Nurse at Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, was taken into custody and charged with one count of neglect of a disabled adult, a third-degree felony. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Cottle, 51, was taken into custody at the Gadsden County Jail with the assistance of the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office and the Chattahoochee Police Department. This case will be prosecuted by State Attorney Willie Megg's Office.

Cottle was dismissed from her position as a licensed-practical nurse after an investigation into her actions related to a Dec. 23 incident involving a pregnant mental patient.


Chattahoochie, FL, Aug. 22, 2012 - Finding that the case involved "more than simple negligence,'' a hearing officer Tuesday backed the firing of a Florida State Hospital nurse because of her handling of a pregnant mental patient who gave birth in December to a severely brain-damaged boy.

Also Tuesday, an attorney for the boy's guardian confirmed that the child died early this month after being on life support since birth.

Licensed-practical nurse Kathryn Cottle, who was on duty at the Chattahoochee hospital when the woman had to be rushed to Tallahassee to give birth, challenged her firing this year by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

But hearing officer William Salmon, in a 15-page recommendation Tuesday to the state Public Employees Relations Commission, sided with DCF and found that Cottle failed to provide appropriate care to the woman, who has been identified for privacy reasons by her initials, R.W.

As an example, Salmon wrote that Cottle called the hospital's emergency room and talked with a registered nurse about the possibility of getting an ultrasound for the pregnant woman, who had complained that she might be going into labor. But Salmon wrote that Cottle didn?t adequately pursue the ultrasound, which could have detected problems in the pregnancy.

"Cottle declined the opportunity to talk to a doctor and said she would call back,'' Salmon wrote. "Cottle's affirmative act of not wanting to discuss R.W.'s concerns with the emergency room doctor indicates that she, not (the registered nurse in the emergency room), lacked a sense of urgency in R.W.'s situation."

But Cottle's attorney, Sidney Matthew, said Tuesday that the state is "scapegoating a low-level person." He said, in part, that the pregnant woman was found to have high blood pressure in November --- a warning sign for possible complications --- and should have been transferred from the rural North Florida mental facility to another hospital that was better equipped to treat high-risk pregnancies.

"Overall, there's plenty of blame to go around in this case, and it starts at the top with management, not at the bottom,'' Matthew said.

Joe Follick, a Department of Children and Families spokesman, said the agency could not comment about the order because it is not final with the Public Employees Relations Commission and because other legal cases could arise from the incident.

The pregnant woman, who was sent to Florida State Hospital last year under the state's Baker Act, had to be rushed by helicopter ambulance Dec. 23 to Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee to give birth. Matthew said she had a condition known as placental abruption, which can cause heavy bleeding.

Daryl Parks, a Tallahassee attorney who represented the child's guardian, said Tuesday that the boy has died. The guardian was the child's grandfather.

The Department of Children and Families fired Cottle and another Florida State Hospital employee because of the incident, while another worker resigned. Also, DCF has received notice that it likely will face a civil lawsuit stemming from the incident, and authorities launched a criminal investigation.

Salmon held an all-day hearing Aug. 7 in Cottle's appeal of her dismissal. The Public Employees Relations Commission will receive his recommended order in deciding whether the firing should be upheld.

The case centered on a roughly 40-minute period on the night of Dec. 23 that involved the pregnant woman complaining the baby felt "low" and that she might be going into labor. During that period, the woman made two 911 calls because she said she needed help.

Along with finding that Cottle lacked urgency in seeking an ultrasound for the woman, Salmon also pointed to testimony from other hospital workers who indicated Cottle did not think the woman was in labor --- testimony that Cottle disputed.

For instance, two workers recounted that Cottle said she would apologize if the woman turned out to be in labor, which Salmon wrote "demonstrates Cottle's state of mind that she did not believe R.W. was experiencing either a medical urgency or emergency."

The hearing officer also added: "Cottle's conduct was more than simple negligence; there was a consciousness attached to her conduct."

But Matthew said he thinks the hearing officer made errors that will become an issue when the case goes to the Public Employees Relations Commission. As an example, Matthew said another registered nurse on duty Dec. 23 testified that Cottle's call to the emergency room about trying to get an ultrasound was an appropriate step to take.

Matthew said Cottle was being blamed for the handling of a pregnant woman's complex medical condition in a hospital that wasn't equipped for such situations.

"The hearing officer is, I think, attributing professional obstetrical nursing skills to an LPN in a mental hospital,'' Matthew said.


Chattahoochie, FL , Aug. 8, 2012 - The mentally ill patient at Florida State Hospital thought she was in labor last December and needed help --- even going so far as to call 911 twice.

But as a state hearing officer listened to a parade of employees Tuesday, he heard sometimes-conflicting accounts about what happened in a women's unit at the Chattahoochee mental hospital that ultimately led to the patient getting rushed to Tallahassee, where she gave birth to a severely brain-damaged baby.

Hearing officer William Salmon will make a recommendation later this month about whether licensed-practical nurse Kathryn Cottle should have been fired for her handling of the patient. But Cottle's appeal of her firing is only part of the fallout from the Dec. 23 episode --- fallout that also includes a potential civil lawsuit against the state and an ongoing criminal investigation.

Cottle, a nurse at the sprawling Gadsden County hospital since 2009, and her attorney argued she did nothing improper in her care of the patient. She testified that, at one point, she called the hospital's emergency department to see if the patient could have an ultrasound, but was rebuffed.

"They acted like it was no big deal,'' Cottle testified.

But state Department of Children and Families attorney Kathi Lee Kilpatrick presented a different picture, contending that Cottle didn't believe the woman was in labor and did not respond adequately.

"This is a mental hospital,'' Kilpatrick said. "There's a different level of care here. It's not like working on a ward at TMH (Tallahassee Memorial Hospital)."

Cottle and another employee were fired because of the episode, and a third worker resigned. Cottle is challenging her dismissal with the state Public Employees Relations Commission, which will receive the recommendation from Salmon.

The patient, who is identified in the case by her initials, R.W., for privacy reasons, was taken by helicopter ambulance the night of Dec. 23 to Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee. A DCF inspector general's report released in June said admission records indicated the child was "stillborn at 10:00 p.m., placed on life support" and later transported to another facility, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

Some sources said this week they believe the child might have died recently. But the News Service of Florida could not independently confirm that.

The exact medical complications suffered by the pregnant woman were not made clear during Tuesday's hearing. But testimony indicated, for example, that she had high blood pressure, which can lead to complications. Also, some questions focused on a condition known as a placental abruption, which can cause heavy bleeding.

Cottle's attorney, Sidney Matthew, has said in documents filed in the case that his client is not suspected of illegal actions. But DCF accuses of Cottle of handling the woman's care "improperly and untimely."

Kilpatrick, the DCF attorney, called several hospital employees as witnesses to try to bolster the agency's case during a seven-hour hearing. The testimony focused on a roughly 35- to 40-minute period Dec. 23 that started with the pregnant woman calling 911 and led to her going to the mental hospital's emergency department and, ultimately, being flown to Tallahassee.

For instance, registered nurse Debra Alwine was called to the women's unit during the middle of the time period and examined the pregnant woman. She said she did not see signs of trouble such as bleeding and could not feel contractions but "erred with caution" and directed that the woman go to the emergency department.

Alwine was critical of Cottle, describing her, in part, as argumentative with residents. But under sometimes-tense questioning from Matthew, Alwine acknowledged she was unaware that Cottle had called the emergency department earlier to ask about getting an ultrasound for the pregnant woman. Alwine said that would have been an appropriate step to take.

Another employee, Angelica Webb, testified that she didn't think Cottle believed the woman was in labor.

"I recall Kathy stating, 'If she's in labor and has that baby, I will tell her myself I am sorry,' '' Webb said.

But Matthew attacked Webb's testimony, saying she hadn't included such information in an incident report she wrote the day after the episode.

"You just made that up, didn't you?'' Matthew asked.

"No, I did not,'' Webb responded.


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