"I'm afraid. It freaked me out!"
Arlene Sampson's reaction to bed bites is understandable. No one likes those nasty, disgusting little critters. But what really bugs Arlene, is what she says she was ordered to do, to rid bed bugs from a client at a county facility for the physically and mentally disabled.
Sampson told WOIO Chief Investigator Carl Monday that she was instructed to use highly adhesive packing tape to remove the bugs from the genitals of a man in his 60's who frequents the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities Adult Activities Center in Maple Hts. The man has a chronic problem with bed bugs and was covered with open sores. She claims other workers at the facility have been using the unorthodox bed bug removal method on other clients for some time.
When she complained to her bosses, Arlene says she was fired for insubordination.
Kathy Biddlestone is the Infection Control Nurse for the CCBDD. She admits all of the agencies eight adult centers have bed bug issues, with Maple Hts. the worst of the bunch. But she insists the packing tape is only used to pick bed bugs off the floor. And not to remove the creatures from client's private parts.
"Would that be an accepted practice?" Monday asked Biddlestone. "That would not be part of our protocol."
But the county's own guidelines are clear about who can and can't examine for bed bugs. Non-medical personnel can check a client's clothing, but only a nurse can physically examine a client, and only if they complain of bites or itching.
Sampson is an Adult Program Specialist, not a nurse. "You just can't have somebody untrained work with somebody that is ailing and hurting and has open sores and believe that is OK," says Arlene's attorney Sheldon Starke.
Audio of a disciplinary hearing involving Sampson includes a county official telling Arlene, "Everybody in that building, I guess except you, has checked this guy (for bed bugs) at one point in time."
"It's inhumane. It's inhumane to take tape and put it on anybody's genitals," says Arlene.
Still, Head Infection Nurse Biddlestone says "we have taken every measure to protect the dignity and privacy of our individuals."
Along with insubordination, the county says it fired Arlene for falsifying records.
Arlene, who has a Masters Degree and 30 years experience in social work, has filed suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"The public definitely needs to know," she says. "They send their clients to these workshops thinking they're having a nice day, but they're going in there to get abused. Especially when they're in there with bed bugs."