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PROVO -- Their job is to help the sick, but one woman says nurses at a Utah County hospital mistreated her mother by taping over her mouth.
The alleged abuse happened over the weekend at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo. Wednesday afternoon, KSL learned the nurses involved in the investigation have been fired.
Brittany Bilson, who made the claim, said her mother Penny Artalejo goes to various hospitals several times a year because of a medical condition. She's even been to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center before and had no problems. But she says the treatment her mother got this weekend was inhumane.
An accident more than six years ago left her with chronic neck pain. She often gets nauseous, too, and can't keep her pain medication down. Bilson said the pain leads to anxiety, and her mother will start shaking and moaning.
"When she can't keep her pain medication down, this is a typical thing that happens," Bilson said.
On Saturday night, Artalejo took 20 painkillers. Her daughter called 911 and Artalejo was taken to the emergency room at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. She was admitted into the adult ICU for further care.
While in the ICU, "(my mother) was still chattering, shaking and moaning," Bilson said.
She said the nurses put their hands over Artalejo's mouth and told her to shut up. The alleged abuse got worse from there.
Bilson alleges that they then took wide hospital tape and covered her face from the top of her nose to the bottom of her chin, and put thinner tape from cheekbone to cheekbone, and more across her jawline.
She claims the nurses knew what they were doing was wrong.
"They were saying to each other that they need to make sure that she can breathe with the tape and if they got caught, they were so going to get fired for this," Bilson said.
The nurses left the tape on her mother for five to 10 minutes, according to her account. Artalejo, who has difficulty talking when she's shaking and moaning, was nevertheless still alert the whole time and she told another daughter what happened.
"It's not right. It's inhumane," Bilson said. "We put our loved one's lives in their hands. I left the hospital, basically thinking she's fine from here, and just more bad happened."
A spokeswoman for Utah Valley Regional Medical Center declined an interview but released a statement that says the hospital is "fully committed to providing our patients with compassionate care. These are allegations that go against our core values and poor treatment of any patient would not be acceptable."
This afternoon, the hospital finished its investigation and, as a result, two nurses, a male and female, were fired. Bilson says that was the right thing to do.
"I don't think we should give them an opportunity to do this to anyone else."
The hospital spokeswoman says she can't provide any information about the nurses or the case, but she says this was an isolated incident.
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