NM nurse assistant pays for state’s error

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Angelique Iradella says the state of New Mexico nearly ruined her life by bullying her for months over something she didn’t do.

Now, the state health department admits that it was an “error” that caused Iradella all that heartache.

Iradella contacted the New Mexico Department of Health in October to update her license as a certified nursing assistant. But an employee there had some shocking news for her.

“She said: ‘I don’t know how you’ve been working because in 1997 or 1999 [you] abused somebody.’ I was dumb-founded at that point. I said I couldn’t have; there’s no way possible,” Iradella said.

The Department of Health couldn’t give her details of the abuse allegation, either.

“And then [I was] told that I would never get it off because she was the queen of licensing, and she was not going to take that off of my name because it was on there by the state, and the state doesn’t make mistakes,” said Iradella, who lives in Rio Rancho.

Not only was she accused of abuse, but it was on a public registry that everyone could see. Over three months she repeatedly talked to the state employee, Delfinia Sandoval, the nurse aide registry coordinator, to fight the allegation.

What Sandoval didn’t know was that the state did in fact make a mistake.

In 2005, the health department changed information technology contractors. The switch created a “download error.”

In all, there were 1,200 errors. Some were typos.

But 300 of the errors incorrectly accused people of abuse, neglect or exploitation. DOH Secretary Retta Ward says most cases were flagged or fixed nine years ago, but not all, including Iradella’s.

Because Sandoval didn’t know about the conversion problems in 2005, she insisted the abuse allegation was correct.

“For three months she tortured me and told me I did it,” Iradella said.

Iradella continued to fight to get her name back. She told Sandoval that it couldn’t have been possible that she abused someone. Iradella says she didn’t even live in the state from 1997 to 1999; she lived in Chicago during that time.

She submitted her children’s birth certificates, showing they’d been born in the Windy City. Iradella also showed New Mexico officials three years worth of hospital records showing she was taking care of her daughter, who was undergoing treatment for leukemia at the time.

The state of New Mexico said that was not proof enough, that Iradella still could have traveled back to New Mexico to work.

Iradella said she was turned down for three jobs because potential employers saw the abuse allegation on the registry.

“It’s been hard. I thought I was going to lose my house. I wasn’t going to be able to pay my bills. I’ve been stressed, and I can’t go for jobs, because I don’t want them to look at me as an abuser when I’m not,” Iradella said.

Secretary Ward said either the department or her employee handling Iradella’s case didn’t know about the error in her file until KRQE News 13 called.

“Ms. Sandoval was not aware that there was a conversion in 2005,” Ward said.

When asked whether Sandoval would be disciplined, Ward said: “We’ll be talking to all employees to handle the certified nurse aide registry.”

New Mexico Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, is vice chair of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee. He was surprised when told about what happened to Iradella.

“This is just unconscionable,” Pino said.

He says it wasn’t right for the Department of Health employee to tell Iradella that the state doesn’t make mistakes.

“The state makes mistakes all the time. It’s made up of people who makes mistakes all the time,” Pino said.

Secretary Ward apologized for what happened to Iradella.

“I’m very sorry for the pain and inconvenience for her,” Ward said.

State health officials will be going through affected files to make sure they caught all the mistakes, but Ward could not say how many errors are outstanding.

The abuse allegation has now been removed from Iradella’s file and is no longer online.

“The good news is my name is cleared,” Iradella said. “I’m not able to go into places and feel comfortable and know I don’t have abuse charges on my name and hopefully get my job.”

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