A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest Of Westchester Nurse And Nurse Aide For Failure To Provide Care To Ailing Korean War Veteran In Their Care
Schneiderman: Vulnerable Seniors And Our Veterans Deserve The Best Of Care
PEARL RIVER – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and arraignment of Joyce Opoku, a licensed practical nurse, and Isabelle Todman, a certified nurse aide, on charges they failed to provide proper care to an 84-year-old resident of the New York State Veterans’ Home at Montrose and for making false statements in the resident’s medical records to falsely reflect that they had provided the care.
The victim, a Korean War veteran who suffered from dementia and Parkinson's disease, was found on the floor of his room at about 6:15 a.m. on the morning of May 1, 2013 and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, in cooperation with the Veterans’ Home, which is operated by the New York State Department of Health, conducted an investigation and determined that Opoku and Todman failed to properly check on him overnight.
Video surveillance footage shows that Todman, who was assigned to provide care to the man, entered the veteran's room only twice during the night, one of those times for just 20 seconds, and that Opoku, who as the charge nurse on the unit, never entered his room at all during the night. The Westchester Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that the resident’s death was the result of natural causes unrelated to the fall from his bed or from the defendants’ neglect.
“For a health care professional, there is no more important duty than providing care to patients who are fully dependent on them -- in this case an ailing veteran of the Korean Conflict,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office will pursue individuals who assume the responsibility of providing care to those in need and then not only fail to provide that care, but falsify records to conceal their failure.”
Opoku, 41, of New Windsor, and Todman, 62, of Peekskill, were arraigned on charges of falsifying records and violations of health care laws before the Honorable Gerald M. Klein in the Town of Cortlandt Justice Court today. They each face up to four years in prison.
Due to the resident's fragile condition, his care plan required that he be checked and repositioned in bed every two hours to prevent the onset of pressure ulcers. For his safety, his repositioning was to be performed by two staff members. The elderly resident also had a history of falls and so his bed was equipped with an alarm that sounded in his room if there was a change in pressure on the mattress, such as someone getting out of the bed. Both the resident and the alarm were to be checked regularly during the night.
Though Todman was required, with the assistance of another caregiver, to reposition the resident every two hours, she only repositioned him once during the night, and did so alone. Despite evidence shown on the surveillance cameras, Todman documented in the resident’s medical records that she had repositioned him three times, each time with another staff member.
For her part, Opoku was required to check on the resident’s well-being at least twice during the night and to make sure that his bed alarm was working. She documented in the resident’s medical records that she performed these safety checks as required, however, video surveillance camera footage showed that she never entered his room during the night.
Opoku is charged with two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class E felony, and Wilful Violation of Health Laws, a misdemeanor. Todman is charged with four counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and three counts of Wilful Violation of Health Laws. The defendants were released on their own recognizance.
The charges against the defendant are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The investigation was led by Investigators Michael Mataraza and Timothy Connolly with the assistance of Supervising Investigator Peter Markiewicz. Special Assistant Attorney General William McClarnon of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s Pearl River Regional Office is prosecuting the case with Regional MFCU Director Anne Jardine. Thomas O’Hanlon is MFCU's Downstate Chief of Criminal Investigations. Amy Held is the Acting Director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and Kelly Donovan is the Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice.