Hidden Cameras Reveal Neglect At Nursing Homes
Attorney General Spitzer today announced the arrest of 19 employees at two separate nursing homes in Rochester and Cortland where hidden cameras revealed distressing evidence of patient neglect.
In addition to the prosecution of these individuals on criminal charges, the Attorney General's office has filed a civil lawsuit against the corporations that control one of the nursing homes. The investigation against the other continues.
In a related action, the Attorney General released a comprehensive report that will help New Yorkers better assess the relationship between patient care and staffing levels at nursing homes in communities across the state.
"The residents of our state's nursing homes are among our most vulnerable citizens," Spitzer said. "My office is committed to doing all it can to protect these individuals, who are sometimes without friends and family to protect their interests. With these cases we are trying to send a message that law enforcement is watching to ensure that appropriate standards of care are met."
The first case involves the Jennifer Matthew Nursing Home in Rochester. Critical evidence in this case was developed through the use of secretly-recorded videotapes of a bedridden patient, referred to in the court filings as "Patient A." Patient A's family permitted the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to install a hidden camera to monitor interaction with nursing home staff.
The complaint describes what the camera recorded - clear evidence that Jennifer Matthew's staff had neglected Patient A. The complaint also describes how Patient A and other residents were not turned and repositioned to avoid the risk of pressure sores and were often left for hours to lie in their own urine and feces, and that medications and treatment were not provided as prescribed.
The court papers also describe how a minimal level of attention from management would have detected these problems. The facility was sufficiently small that walking into every patient room in the home would have taken a few minutes, and a supervisor would readily be able to determine that residents were not receiving appropriate attention.
Instead, the court filing describes how the staff would move call bells away from patients and stop doing their rounds so that they could socialize, watch movies, sleep, or even leave the building.
Staff members are also accused of falsely claiming in required paperwork that proper care had been provided to the patients.
To date, eight former licensed or certified Jennifer Matthew professionals have pleaded guilty in connection with the neglect and record falsification. An additional former employee was arrested on December 6, 2005, and five more were arrested on criminal complaints today.
Among those charged civilly was the primary owner and operator of the facility, Anthony Salerno, and a consulting company he owns known as Healthcare Associates (HCA).
The second matter involves the Northwoods Nursing Home in Cortland. As with the Rochester nursing home, the family of a resident consented to the installation of a hidden video camera.
According to criminal complaints filed in the cases, the secret camera revealed that licensed professionals at Northwoods repeatedly failed to provide care or treatment to that resident, and then falsified his care records to report that proper care had been administered.
Five employees have been charged with Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class "E" felony, and misdemeanor neglect and endangerment in the Northwoods matter.
These and other patient neglect cases were the catalyst for a report prepared by the Attorney General's office that details staffing levels at nursing homes throughout the state. This report is intended to assist New Yorkers in choosing nursing homes for themselves and their family members.
Academic studies and government research have shown a strong relationship between staffing levels and quality of care, and have identified a threshold, referred to as hours per resident day or "HPRD," below which the quality of care suffers. On the basis of these studies, some states have set mandatory minimum staffing levels for their nursing homes. In the report released today, the Attorney General's Office listed each home in the state, its HPRD ratio, and whether that home would meet the standards set in other states or a threshold described in a 2001 federal study.
In releasing the data, the Attorney General cautioned that New Yorkers should use staffing levels as just one of many indicators in choosing a home. The report urges consumers to visit homes, actively monitor the level of care being delivered to their loved ones, talk to others with family members or friends in the home, and consult with knowledgeable professionals.
These cases and report are part of MFCU's ongoing nursing home initiative, supervised by William Comiskey, Deputy Attorney General in Charge of MFCU. Zachary Weiss, Counsel to the Attorney General's Criminal Division, coordinated the investigations. The civil action against Jennifer Matthew is led by Paul Mahoney, head of MFCU's civil unit, with Assistant Attorney General Sherrie Brown. The Jennifer Matthew criminal charges are being prosecuted by MFCU Rochester Regional Office head Jerry Solomon, and the Northwoods criminal charges are being prosecuted by MFCU Syracuse Regional Office head Ralph Tortora, both under the supervision of George Quinlan, Assistant Deputy Attorney General. The primary drafter of the staffing report was MFCU Albany Regional Office Head Steven Krantz.
Investigators and auditors who participated in the investigations are Douglas Hinchey, Heather Helms, Tina Dentino, Neil Davis, Arthur Vasile, William Falk, Dejan Budimir, Michael Brady, Patrick Lynch, Michael Ostuni and Christopher Burns.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The defendants from Jennifer Matthew who have pleaded guilty in Rochester City Court are:
Saramma Jacob, LPN, 60, of Gates; Natasha Gromms, LPN, 26 and Debra Gaelens, LPN, 60, both of Greece; Felicia Thomas, LPN, 41; Teresa Washington, CNA, 53; Maria Rivera, CNA, 38, Robin Hood-Henry, CNA, 46 and Dixie Whitman, CNA, 45, all of Rochester.
The defendants from Jennifer Matthew who have been arrested are:
Nada Jarovska, RN, 51, of Irondequoit; and Tomiko Goodlet, CNA, 29, Tammy Devos, CNA, 41,
Marguerite Carrington, CNA, 48, Janell Thompson, 20, and Jesse Simmons, CNA, 61, all of Rochester.
The defendants from Northwoods who have been arrested are: Theresa Loy, LPN, 49, Mary Kenyon, LPN, 39, and Steve Nadeau, CNA, 38, all of Cortland; Renee Fulmer, LPN, 30, of East Freetown; and Judy Abreu, CNA, 23, of theBronx.
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