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CBS 6 investigation uncovers child abuse, neglect allegations at Virginia children’s hospital

“Let me make myself clear, you’re messing with the wrong mom!”
Posted: 11:00 PM, Feb 05, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-07 14:30:34-05
Branden Petro and Kaidyn Hyde
Renee Hanania and Branden Petro 1.jpeg
Branden Petro and Renee Hanania
Renee Hanania and Branden Petro.jpeg
Renee Hanania.jpeg
Dr. Davidow.jpeg
Physical abuse.jpeg
Branden Petro 1.jpeg
Kaidyn Hyde
Sara Weidemann 1.jpeg
Nirey Bowden.jpeg

NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. -- A six-month long CBS 6 investigation has revealed that a New Kent hospital has been under criminal investigation by the Virginia State Police for child abuse and neglect for more than two years.

State police confirms it launched its probe into Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents on October 17, 2017. As part of that ongoing investigation, it’s collected “approximately 250 pages of documents and information, including, but not limited to, complaints court orders, memoranda, notes, diagrams, maps, photographs, correspondence, reports, witness statements, and evidence in whole or in part,” according to a response from VSP to a CBS 6 request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Parents from around the country, some who say their children are included in that investigation, reached out to CBS 6 after our investigative report in October revealed, the hospital was cited for noncompliance when it came to notifying the state of two dozen serious alleged incidents.

Renee Hanania says she was one of the first to reach out to investigators.

Renee Hanania and Branden Petro.jpeg
Renee Hanania and Branden Petro

“There was bruises everywhere,” said Hanania.

Hanania described the condition in which her son Branden Petro left Cumberland Hospital.

He was flown to the integrated care facility from Florida September 6, 2017 for his seizure disorder and other complex medical needs.

When they arrived, Hanania said they were unable to get into the acute unit she says was promised to them.

“Branden’s very complex and he needs 24/7 care he (the doctor) said ‘all of our units have 24/7 care he will be just fine.’” Hanania remembered.

Branden got settled into a room on the neurology unit.

“Branden looked over to me and said mom don’t leave me,” Hanania recalled.

Those would be the last words Hanania said she would ever hear her son speak. To this day, Branden is nonverbal.

Related: Ex-employee raises concerns over children’s hospital: ‘Our job is to make sure that they’re safe’

Despite being discouraged from visiting for a couple weeks to allow Branden to get acclimated, Hanania says she returned days later to find her son injured after she called to check on him.

“Somehow, they slipped, one of the nurses said Branden fell or Branden has a lesion and I said ‘wait what? What do you mean?’ They said weren’t you notified? Didn’t somebody call you and tell you that Branden fell? No, and I said nobody told me that Branden fell. She put me on hold and said that’s odd because it’s not documented in Branden’s file,” said Hanania.

Hanania said she arrived to find a gash on her son’s head.

“I walked in I was pissed off. I was like now I want the team. I want to know what’s going on. That’s when I also noticed Branden is lethargic a little bit. Something is not right. He couldn’t stand up,” said Hanania.

Renee Hanania and Branden Petro 1.jpeg
Renee Hanania and Branden Petro

“His room was filthy. It was disgusting,” she recalled. “I found him with food in his mouth, not bathed, didn’t shave him... an there was always excuses.”

While she says his health was rapidly declining, her concerns were growing.

“I left Cumberland and called Tricare (health insurance company) and told them something is not right. I’m going to initiate Branden’s release,” said Hanania.

She says the company responded that they would put in an alert and start an investigation. In the meantime, Branden was moved to the acute unit but his mom had no intentions of leaving him there.

Branden Petro
Branden Petro

“When I called Cumberland Hospital, two nurses told me that if I don’t get my son out of the hospital he was going to die,” she said. “They said, get your son out as soon as possible.”

That happen on the evening of September 22, 2017.

Hanania arrived at Cumberland Hospital unannounced.

“Branden was unresponsive. When I walked into Branden’s room, he was seizing and nobody was with him. He had a fever. He wasn’t attended to… he was not responding to me,” Hanania said tearfully. “I tried to wake him up he did not open his eyes. He lost so much weight. I demanded that they release him, and they did.”

Renee Hanania.jpeg
Renee Hanania

Branden was rushed by ambulance to VCU Medical Center where he was examined by a Child Protection Team.

“He was unresponsive. He had bruises all over his body. He wasn’t right medically,” said Hanania.

Multiple bruises, and an abrasion were noted in his chart “raising the suspicion for physical abuse” it said. The assessment also determined Branden was “malnourished” and “emaciated” with a “significant weight loss of more than 10 percent.”

Also documented, was a “concerning” visit at VCU from Cumberland’s Medical Director Doctor Daniel Davidow.

“I am positively sure... on my life... that they hurt my son.”
Renee Hanania

“I am positively sure... on my life... that they hurt my son. I know it so much so, that Doctor Davidow decided to make a visit to the hospital when he couldn’t get information about Branden because the hospital wouldn’t give him information because he was no longer a patient at Cumberland,” said Hanania.

“He’s prying and looking into the rooms trying to find where Branden’s room is and I thought to myself this has got to be (dream)… this is not happening,” Hanania recalled

“So, I said 'what are you doing here?'” recalled Hanania.

“He said, ‘I have been trying to get a hold of you. I wanted to see how my poor little Branden is.’”

Hanania was able to hit record on her phone and capture an hour-long conversation with Davidow at her son’s bedside:

Hanania explained to Davidow, “What they believe is that he was malnourished and starved.”

She went on to say, “Let me explain something to you Dr. Davidow, I would do anything for my son. Why I was never notified that Branden fell and why I was never notified that Branden was significantly deteriorating is beyond me.”

“What I can tell you is there were people in the facility that were telling me a lot of things,” she continued.

Dr. Davidow responded, “Okay.”

“And A, either you are truly a compassionate doctor and you want to find out what’s going on inside your facility, or B, you’re covering up something,” said Hanania.

“Okay,” replied Davidow.

“Let me make myself clear, you’re messing with the wrong mom!” said Hanania.

“I have to find out what’s going on inside my facility,” said Davidow.

“Okay, something is not right!” said Hanania.

Dr. Davidow.jpeg
Dr. Davidow

A VCU Police report dated October 3, 2017, showed the surprise visit was the first of two unwelcome visits from Davidow.

“I’m talking to one of Branden’s doctor’s outside Branden’s room and all of a sudden he walks straight up to me and says ‘I think I know; I don’t know if you got my email. I think I know what’s wrong with Branden,’” Hanania recalled. “Can you give me two minutes to tell you what’s wrong with Branden?” she says of Davidow.

“I said are you kidding me?” said Hanania. “The doctor with me said, ‘Dr Davidow, you’re really not supposed to be here so unfortunately we’re going to have to remove you.’ They called VCU Police and he was removed from VCU grounds.”

“Dr. Daniel Davidow is not affiliated with VCU Health System or VCU. We cannot discuss VCU Police reports or human resources matters,” said, VCU Heath System Spokesperson Shira Pollard.

Hanania got in touch with the New Kent Sheriff’s Office who she says eventually referred her to the Virginia State Police and Special Agent Marcie Clifton.

Branden Petro and Renee Hanania
Branden Petro and Renee Hanania

Hanania says Clifton came to VCU Medical Center to take a police report. Hanania says, dozens upon dozens of parents of patients would also file reports.

“Everybody is coming out of the woodwork.”
Renee Hanania

Like Branden Petro, 12-year-old Kaidyn Hyde left Cumberland Hospital in January 2019, bruised and battling infections. His parents transferred him from Cumberland to Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, which documented his “injuries sustained at a treatment facility.”

Kaidyn Hyde
Kaidyn Hyde

An investigation by the New Kent Department of Social Services dated April 1, 2019, found that Kaidyn had been the victim of physical neglect and abuse.

Sara Weidemann, 11, also was transferred out of Cumberland in serious condition in August of 2013.

A Child Protection Team at Penn State Hershey Medical Center noted a high fever of 105, multiple infections including MRSA and E. coli, multiple bruises and an abrasion and “suspected physical child abuse from referring facility.”

Sara Weidemann.PNG
Sara Weidemann

Fifteen-year-old Nirey Bowden was a patient at Cumberland when, according to an investigation by Health Services for Children with Special Needs (HSCSN), with the help of video review, determined that on September 19, 2018 he had a seizure after his airway was restricted by a Cumberland staff member.

The HSCSN finding states, “N.B. was placed in a physical hold and escorted in a manner that the position of his arm was across his neck and restricted his airway. The communication provided by Cumberland further documents that N.B. was placed in three restrictive holds during the course of the events.”

It states, Bowden called his mom the following day and stated, “he almost died the night before.” His mother said there was no mention of the incident in his treatment meeting September 25, 2018, nor was the seizure reported.

An investigation by the New Kent Department of Social Services dated January 9, 2019, determined Bowden was the alleged victim of physical abuse by Don Juan Cooper. It determined that “child abuse or neglect had occurred.”

HSCSN states that Cumberland conducted a root cause analysis of the incident and that Cooper was terminated.

Nirey Bowden.jpeg
Nirey Bowden

Universal Health Services, which owns Cumberland, offered to discuss compensation with the Bowden family explaining they remained “unhappy about Nirey’s experience at Cumberland.”

This came after months of the family making claims of medical neglect and abuse.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, CBS 6 requested the number of complaints at the hospital and residential facility over the last five years.

From 2015 to present, the Virginia Department of Health says it received 31 total complaints. Of those, 18 were substantiated, 11 were unsubstantiated and two complaints are incomplete at this time.

Substantiated reports: (Click to view the reports)

In that same time-frame on the residential side, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services reports 100 allegations of abuse and neglect. Of those, four were founded.

CBS 6 reached out to Governor Ralph Northam after several families said they reported the abuse to his office and the state.

A spokesperson provided us with the following statement from Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey.

“We take these accusations very seriously. My office is working with state agencies to investigate this further and determine immediate next steps,” the statement read.

Parents say the Attorney General of Virginia’s Office is also investigating and working with Virginia State Police.

“We generally don’t comment on ongoing investigations, even to confirm whether or not one may be ongoing,” said a spokesperson for Attorney General Mark Herring.

“I’m going to make sure that those who made my son suffer and those who made all of those children suffer pay,” said Hanania. “The worst thing that we ever did in our lives was come to Cumberland Hospital. I wish I could take it back.”

Dr. Davidow said he was unable to grant CBS 6 an interview, but Cumberland CEO Gay Brooks released the following statement on January 24, 2020.

“Founded in 1983, Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents provides integrated care, combining medical, psychotherapeutic, rehabilitative, behavioral and educational services for young people challenged by both complex medical and emotional needs.

Cumberland Hospital has been, and continues to be, in good standing with our licensing and regulatory authorities. We are surveyed regularly and, like many healthcare facilities, promptly address any deficiencies that may be cited. Further, any complaint or allegation is taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and addressed as appropriate.

In response to your request for comment, we asked for specifics on the allegations you intend to reference and the claims you state were made by families of patients after discharge from our facility. You have declined to provide any details, precluding us from providing meaningful commentary or response within the constraints of patient privacy laws.

With that said, we are aware of a pending police investigation involving one particular incident last year. The employee implicated in this incident was immediately terminated. We turned the matter over to law enforcement and are fully cooperating with the authorities.”

CBS 6 investigative reporter Laura French disputed those claims immediately on January 24, 2020 and again January 30, 2020 with the following emails to Brooks:

"January 24, 2020

Good afternoon,

I am in receipt of your statement.

I do see where you referenced that I "declined to provide any details," as you will see from my request for comment on 1/21, I have highlighted where I am very specific with the allegations that are being made, who is being accused, the evidence we have obtained, the investigative branch we have been in touch with and other state officials that alleged victims have reached out to. I also point out what some of the receiving hospitals documented in medical records that we have obtained. I do understand due to privacy and HIPPA regulations we would not be able to discuss, nor would it be appropriate to list specific cases.

As I mentioned in all of our communications, my goal is to be as transparent as possibly so you could have the opportunity to respond to these serious findings and allegations:

Good afternoon,

I am reaching out regarding an investigation I am working on involving Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescence.

Following our October story on the hospital, numerous parents from around the country reached out to us sharing their stories alleging their children were medically neglected and or abused at the facility, some even alleging their children have been sexually assaulted by Medical Director Dr. Daniel Davidow. Multiple families have provided us with “founded” reports from the New Kent Department of Social Services that child abuse and neglect had occurred.

We have been provided photographic evidence and medical records from receiving hospitals who assessed patients who came from your facility, that documented suspected abuse.

All of these families claim they have reported this at the state, and local levels as well as to the Virginia State Police who we understand is currently investigating multiple claims. Some families have been in touch with the Attorney General of Virginia and the Governor’s office.

We have interviewed several families and want to give UHS and Dr. Davidow the opportunity to respond to these serious findings and allegations.

I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.

Best,

Laura French

January 30, 2020

Ms. Brooks,

As I mentioned in all of our communication, it is my goal to be completely transparent as we approach the airing of our investigation into Cumberland Hospital.

As part of our investigation, we sent FOIA requests to the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

I wanted to share with you the information that was just returned to us from those agencies thus far (I am still waiting on some reports from VDH.)

The Virginia State Police confirmed it launched a criminal "Child Abuse/Neglect" investigation into the hospital on October 17, 2017.

"A general description of any injuries suffered or property damaged or stolen: Neglect of patients/residents"

It mentions "250 pages of documents and information" pertaining to the open case.

The Virginia Department of Health responded that from 2015-present

31 total complaints were received

18 were substantiated

11 complaints were unsubstantiated

2 complaints are incomplete at this time

DBHDS responded since 2015 it received 100 complaints and 4 were founded.

Additionally, VCU Medical Center confirmed that Dr. Davidow is not affiliated with VCU Health System or VCU as indicated in his biography and the Virginia Board of Medicine practitioner information profile.

Best,

Laura French"

French did not receive a response to either email.

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