Former Nurses Testify in Hearing on Alleged Unsafe Practices at Delaware Planned Parenthood Clinics

Two former nurses for Planned Parenthood of Delaware testified May 29 about what they claim were unsafe practices they witnessed while working at two of the organization’s clinics. Planned Parenthood representatives say issues cited earlier this year by the state health department have been addressed.

The nurses’ allegations have not been substantiated by any other source.

Joyce Vasikonis and Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich testified that dangerous practices were routine at the Planned Parenthood clinics in Wilmington and Dover where they worked until August 2012. They cited sped-up procedures, non-sterile rooms and equipment, expired medication, and poor training, among other issues. Mitchell-Werbrich, who said she worked for the organization for just under four weeks, said the group provided “meat-market-style, assembly-line abortions.” They also said that patients with Rh-negative blood types were not provided with RhoGam shots, when not doing so could endanger future pregnancies.

The Washington Post described the May 29 hearing as “bipartisan,” sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat state senator. But according to the Delaware State News, the hearing featured “mostly GOP legislators.” The Democrat, state Sen. Robert L. Venables Sr., (D-Laurel), is an anti-choice legislator.

Both nurses left the organization well before what Operation Rescue claims was a series of medical emergencies at the clinic (once, anti-choice protesters saw a gurney being taken out of the clinic, but were not inside the clinic to know the nature of the transfer; on another occasion the group obtained 9-1-1 records about another hospital transfer from the clinic). It was also months before the nurses then went to the media to tell their story.

The Delaware Department of Health and Human Services told the news stations that it investigated one clinic after receiving a complaint in October 2012, but saw no health violations of the type described. Another investigation was conducted this year after the series of clinic incidents witnessed by Operation Rescue “sidewalk counselors.” At that time, the department cited 14 kinds of violations at the Wilmington clinic, including “inadequate documentation of narcotics, supplies that had exceeded expiration dates, lax practices to ensure sterility, unlabeled bottles of fluid, overdue or uncertain maintenance records,” the Delaware News Journal reports.

Planned Parenthood of Delaware CEO Ruth Lytle-Barnaby noted in a statement that the Delaware Division of Public Health says the clinic is back in compliance, and all violations have been addressed. “In recent days, the Delaware Division of Public Health has stated that they have concluded their recent survey of our health centers and that we have complied in areas that were noted in their last unannounced visit. The findings of the recent survey were immediately rectified. While it is important to adhere to every medical regulation, the Division of Public Health findings do not in any way support the allegations of former employees who are now working with organizations whose mission is to oppose our services,” Lytle-Barnaby said in a statement.

Another state agency is arranging a hearing to investigate allegations against a physician who until recently performed abortions at the clinics. The State Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline has filed a formal complaint against Dr. Timothy F. Liveright, the abortion provider at the Delaware clinics, calling him a “clear and immediate danger to the public.” Dr. Liveright has been accused of incompetence, negligence, unprofessional conduct, and sexual harassment. The Washington Post reports that Dr. Liveright retired from practicing medicine in Delaware in April.

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