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Former Meriter nurse pleads guilty to 19 charges of harming infant patients

MADISON (WKOW) — A former nurse accused of abusing infants in a Madison hospital neo-natal intensive care unit pleaded guilty Monday to 19 felony charges.

Christopher M. Kaphaem, 44, had his bond revoked and was taken into custody following the court hearing.

He was suspended from Meriter when authorities first suspected his involvement with patient injuries.

As reported earlier on WKOW, a criminal complaint describes a variety of injuries to infants in Meriter’s NICU between March 2017 and February, including a child identified as Infant 1. “Fracture to his skull, a wrist fracture, and a left humerus fracture,” the complaint against Kaphaem states.

Kaphaem had been a nurse at Meriter for fourteen years. He previously worked at UW Hospital. A source with knowledge of his employment says he was fired.

Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky demanded Kaphaem detail his actions with each of nine, different injured infant patients at the hospital.

“With the number of infants involved, with the number of infants I cared for over my time as a registered nurse in the NICU…it’s diffcult for me to remember each infant that I cared for,”  Kaphaem said.

After Karofsky halted the hearing and ordered the attorneys in the case into her chambers, the hearing resumed,  with Karofsky detailing injuries to each child, and Kaphaem confirming responsibility for the harm.

Karofsky said these lengths were necessary after a prosecutor objected to a submission from Kaphaem’s attorney that stated Kaphaem violated hospital care policies with patients who required extra attention and precautions.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Moeser called the additional information an “underhanded” manuver to rewrite the criminal charges.  Kaphaem’s attorney Jonas Bednarek said the information was simply intended to supplement the court record.

A criminal complaint states one physician initially believed the first, known victim’s injuries were from hospital equipment and accidental.  But as more infant injuries surfaced, the complaint says evidence led to Kaphaem’s involvement.

Federal officials cited Meriter Hospital for inadequately responding to the patient injuries, with an “immediate jeopardy violation” one of the sanctions.

Officials say Meriter satisfactorily corrected procedures and policies involved in the citations.

A Meriter spokesperson said that 24/7 video monitoring has been added to the NICU and patient trends are more closely tracked by new tools.

When sentenced, Kaphaem faces the possibility of maximum prison sentence of over one hundred forty years.

Kapheam’s guilty pleas come less than a month after he rejected a plea bargain offer from prosecutors involving the dismissal of some charges against him.

There’s been no comment on Kaphaem’s rejection of the more lenient outcome, or on his motive for harming infant, hospital patients.

The complaint states Kaphaem told a fellow nurse “…he was happy to work in the NICU because he would not have to deal with patients talking back.”

Courtney Terlecki

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