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Incident has home health staff upset

An alleged assault on a White Earth Home Health nurse in White Earth late last week has some questioning whether nurses and aides in the field are properly protected.

According to the criminal complaint filed with the Becker County Courthouse, Guy Anthony Keezer, 28, of Waubun, was arrested and booked into the county jail Friday May 23 and charged with two felony counts of fifth degree assault.

The report stated that when a White Earth Tribal Police officer arrived at the Home Health building in White Earth, he spoke with the nurse, who said she was doing a home health visit when Keezer (who was reportedly a visitor laying on the couch) came up behind her, grabbing her around her neck and face.

According to the report, when the nurse’s patient began yelling at Keezer, he let go of her and left the residence.

The victim had a bruised lip and was shaking and crying.

The patient also verified the nurse’s story to police.

Keezer has convictions on five assaults from April 6, 2012 and October 31, 2013.

To add insult to injury for the victim, Keezer was let go two days later, according to jail officials.

According to officials at the Becker County Courthouse, Keezer was released because the arresting officer did not fill out what is known as a “detainer,” which gives law enforcement the authority to hold somebody for more than 48 hours. It is a common procedure when arrests happen right before a weekend, in particular a long holiday weekend like in this incident that preceded Memorial weekend.

According to a co-worker of the nurse, the incident left the woman very shaken.

“Now she (the victim) won’t leave the house — she can’t even go to the gas station without looking over her shoulder,” said the victim’s co-worker. “She doesn’t even have the comfort of knowing he’s in jail.”

She wondered why home health care workers are blindly sent into homes where they have no idea what they’re walking into.

“We have no idea who is in the home or who could be visiting them, so why aren’t we made aware of these things?” said the woman, who says during her time in home health, she has went into homes where drug deals are happening right in front of her.

“I’ve had co-workers who have been asked to smoke weed with the people there…just a lot of crazy stuff,” she said. “We put up with a lot, and most of the time people are really good about things, but I just don’t think we have adequate training to deal with some of these situations.”

There are three different programs that White Earth Home Health offers, including mental health, child care and general home health care visits. The majority – if not all – of those nurses and aides are women.

Because Keezer was released, his first court appearance has been set up through a summons on June 9.

Meanwhile, White Earth officials, who confirm the alleged attack was “random,” are also left trying to figure out how to prevent a situation like this from happening again.

In a joint statement between White Earth Director of Health Pat Butler and Chief of Police Randy Goodwin, reservation officials express “deep regret” for the attack on their home health worker.

“The safety of our employees is of paramount concern and while our program has operated over the last 34 years without a similar incident, we are currently reviewing all of the associated policy and procedure to minimize the threat of another occurrence in the future,” the statement read.

It also pointed out that the Tribal Home Health on White Earth provides approximately 2,000 home visits per month, and there are an estimated 3,500 services delivered in the home by tribal programming overall on a monthly basis.

“A dedicated team of program directors who have worked recently on White Earth’s new service delivery platform, WECARE (White Earth Coordinated Assessment Resources and Education), have met continuously and have already began to implement short term initiatives as well as develop long term initiatives to provide any needed policy updates, employee training, and procedural changes to keep our employees as safe as possible.”

Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena, all in Minnesota.

(218) 844-1466