Madison nurse released after 19 child abuse felony charges

Madison (WKOW) — A suspended Meriter Hospital nurse is free on a signature bond, after being charged with nineteen felony crimes in connection to injuries to nine infants in the hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit.

After a brief Thursday court appearance and fingerprinting at the Dane County jail, 43-year-old Christopher Kaphaem remained silent as a 27 News reporter asked for his response to allegations he hurt vulnerable babies.

In February, Kaphaem was suspended from Meriter when authorities first suspected his involvement with patient injuries.  Kaphaem’s state nursing license was also suspended indefinitely.

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.

The complaint describes other injuries to babies to include significant swelling to limbs and wounds from the improper introduction of IVs.

The complaint states veteran nurse Karin Smylie observed one child who had been cared for during certain hours by Kaphaem to have bruises to the palm of the hand.

“Never in my 32 years working in NICU have I ever seen anything like that,” the complaint quotes Smylie.

In the complaint, nurses state Kaphaem at one time cared for an infant with dim light and the room door closed, and would often shun offers of help for care tasks requiring two people.

Court records state nurse Crystal Olson relayed to investigators Kaphaem’s view of working with infants.

“Kaphaem had once told her he was happy to work in the NICU because he would not have to deal with patients talk back to him,” the complaint states.

The complaint also says Kaphaem worked with all nine, injured infants.  The complaint states injuries were often discovered or documented after Kaphaem’s overnight nursing shifts.

“It is a very complex case, there is a lot of documentation,” Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne tells 27 News.

But Ozanne says the motive for victimizing these infants is unclear.

“I can’t say why this may have happened,” he said.

Kaphaem has 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.  A hospital spokesperson declines comment on the reason for Kaphaem’s separation.

Federal officials cited Meriter Hospital for inadequately responding to the patient injuries, with an “immediate jeopardy violation” of one of the sanctions.  Officials say Meriter satisfactorily corrected procedures and policies involved in the citations.  A Meriter spokesperson says 24/7 video monitoring has been added to the NICU and patient trends are more closely tracked by new tools.

Kaphaem’s next court appearance is Oct. 15.  His bail conditions ban any contact with the victim’s families and Meriter Hospital, unless he requires emergency treatment.

WQOW Staff

WQOW Staff

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