State police: Woman abused disabled patients at Eleanor Slater Hospital

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (WPRI) -- More than a month after Target 12 reported allegations of abuse at the Zambarano Unit of Eleanor Slater Hospital, Rhode Island State Police Wednesday announced the arrest of a Connecticut woman in the case.

Police said Lynda L. Proietti, 40, of Danielson, Connecticut was arrested and charged with abuse in health care facilities.

Police said Proietti was a certified nursing assistant at the Burrillville facility before hospital officials placed her on leave in January. State police began their investigation after being contacted by hospital officials.

They said an investigation revealed "a common pattern of alleged reckless physical and verbal abuse by Lynda L. Proietti toward two residents at the Zambarano Unit."

The Zambarano Unit is an acute care hospital for patients needing long-term care.

The director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Maria Montanaro told Eyewitness News as soon as the allegations surfaced her department launched an internal investigation, placed Proietti on leave, and notified state police.

"We will not stand for abuse of any kind in any of our facilities," Montanaro said. "The charges announced today are disturbing. BHDDH and hospital leadership will continue to cooperate with RISP on this investigation. We will also redouble our own efforts to ensure that this never happens again in one of our hospitals."

Those sentiments were echoed by Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts.

"We care for the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders at our state hospital. The allegations of abuse at Zambarano are unacceptable, and will never be tolerated," Roberts said. "We inherited a hospital system that had been neglected for too long, but there is no excuse for this type of behavior."

Proietti was arraigned by a Justice of the Peace at State Police headquarters on one felony count of abuse in a health care facility and two misdemeanor accounts of abuse in a health care facility. She was released on $2,000 personal recognizance and is scheduled to appear for a pre-arraignment conference June 6.

Police said the felony charge carries a fine not more than $3,000 or a term of imprisonment of not more than three years, or both. Each count of the misdemeanor charge could carry a fine not more than $500 or a term of imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.

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