GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP — A woman employed as a Certified Nurse Aide at the Northbrook Behavioral Health Hospital in Blackwood has had her certification temporarily suspended after charges were filed alleging she had caused a mentally ill patient to fall out of his wheelchair.

Debra L. Matela, 43, of Turnersville, was arrested Feb. 26 and was charged with simple assault on an institutionalized elderly person. The patient was a 73-year-old woman. Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said Matela voluntarily surrendered her certification while the charges against her are still pending.

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"Any time a certified homemaker-home health aide is arrested, either on or off the job, it raises serious concerns about their ability to provide quality care," Porrino said. "But when the charges involve assault on an elderly patient, swift intervention is needed to protect the public."

Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said people in Matela's role "spend long stretches alone with patients, many of whom cannot fend for themselves." Because of this, "It is imperative that they be held to the highest professional standards possible."

With the suspension of her license, Lee said, "Until these disturbing allegations are resolved, this individual will be prohibited from working as a certified home healthcare provider."

Porrino said the role of certified homemaker-home health aides have grown in recent years. He said in the past decade the number of people in the field has grown from 26,618 to 43,506.

In 2016 the "Safe Care Cam" program was started, which Porrino said allows for surveillance cameras to be given for 30 day loans free of charge. Cameras are available for anyone who thinks their loved ones are being abused or neglected by home health aides or caregivers. He said the department has received "dozens of requests," for cameras through the program.

Porrino encouraged people concerned about the behavior of health care professionals to file a complaint online or calling 1-800-242-5846.

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