NEWARK – Continuing its commitment to protecting the elderly from abuse at the hands of their caretakers, and addressing sexual misconduct and abuse by licensed professionals, the Division of Consumer Affairs (“the Division”) today announced the temporary suspension of a certified homemaker-home health aide ("CHHA") charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact against an 84-year-old patient at an Ocean County long-term care facility where the CHHA worked.
Michael A. Edwards, a.k.a. Michael A. Donaldson, 32, of Manchester, was arrested on May 21 after his employer, Sunrise Senior Living facility in Jackson, told police that another employee caught Edwards inappropriately touching an elderly woman in her room at the facility. His employment at the facility has been terminated.
Edwards is one of eight CHHAs sanctioned by the State Board of Nursing (“the Board”) this year following arrests for crimes allegedly committed on or off the job. In a Consent Order filed by the Board on June 22, Edwards agreed to the temporary suspension pending the outcome of his criminal case.
His suspension comes as the Division, under the direction of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, undertakes a sweeping review of how its 51 professional boards — which oversee approximately 720,000 active licensed professionals, from accountants and doctors to plumbers and veterinarians — address allegations involving the sexual misconduct and abuse of licensees and applicants.
The review, which is currently underway, will include evaluations of whether boards should ask additional questions on license applications, how boards approach investigations and discipline, and how boards engage with complainants alleging sexual misconduct and abuse by a licensee or applicant.
“It’s an egregious abuse of trust when any licensee sexually preys on a patient or client, but it is especially heinous when the victim is an elderly individual under their care,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The actions announced today underscore both the need for our professional boards to remain vigilant in protecting vulnerable patients, as well as the importance of the review they are presently undertaking to better protect victims and hold licensees accountable for their actions.”
“We take all allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by licensees seriously, especially when they involve patients or clients in positions of vulnerability,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “It is to protect victims in cases like these that we are committed to undertaking this review of how professional and occupational licensing boards handle allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse.”
Since January, the Board has also filed Orders against the following CHHAs charged with crimes:
Investigators with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted investigations in these cases.
Deputy Attorney General Shirley Dickstein of the Consumer Affairs Counseling Section of the Division of Law is representing the State in these matters.
For more information about the Division’s Safe Care Cam, or to learn how to apply for a camera, visit the Consumer Affairs website at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/SCC.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 973-504-6200 to request a complaint form.