SAN DIEGO - Two nurses who were captured on surveillance video groping one another when they were supposed to be caring for a 98-year old patient had their nursing licenses suspended Wednesday.
Neither Russell Torralba nor Alfredo Ruiz appeared before the Administrative Judge hearing their case in downtown San Diego. Ruiz decided not to fight the suspension.
Torralba stood in the hallway during his brief hearing and avoided reporters as he left the hearing.
His attorney argued Torralba should be able to keep his license as long as he continues working in a supervised environment, like a hospital. The attorney argued that Torralba has a good track record from several local hospitals where he worked.
"I don't think there's anything to indicate that he's been a danger in the hospitals he's worked at," said attorney Robert Frank.
Deputy Attorney General Nicole Trama argued Torralba showed a flagrant disregard for the safety of his patients and poses a significant danger to the public.
After the judge ordered Torralba’s license suspended, Trama made a brief statement.
"Protection of the public is the highest priority for the board of registered nursing and with these suspension orders in place here today we believe we've achieved that goal of public protection," she said.
She added that the next step is to get the nurses' licenses revoked.
A spokesman for AMS Homecare Solutions, which placed Torralba and Ruiz in the victim's home said the company is "relieved" that their licenses were suspended.
In a letter to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, the Director of Operations for AMS writes: "AMS is deeply shocked and saddened by the disgusting behavior revealed on a private home video released to the news media of two nurses responsible for caring for a severely infirmed woman."
The letter goes on to say AMS urges the district attorney to aggressively investigate the possible criminal nature of the nurses' actions.
When asked whether AMS should bear some of the responsibility, company spokesman Paul O'Sullivan responded that AMS did all it could to check the men's backgrounds.
"It was completely unforeseen," he said, adding that "people in positions of trust all too frequently break that trust."
An attorney for the victim's family disagreed.
"It's important to note that the focus of this case not only involves these two individual nurses but AMS's complete lack of supervision, which we think the evidence will show," said Lukas Pick. "Any suggestion by AMS that they were merely a referral agency is going to be contradicted by the evidence that these were employees of AMS, and they were responsible for supervising them."