Rochester Nursing Home Aide Admits Patient Abuse

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that a certified nurse's aide assigned to work at the St. John's Home in Rochester pleaded guilty earlier this week to Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person as a result of an incident in which the aide failed to follow an elderly patient's care plan when moving her out of bed.

Appearing before Rochester City Court Judge Thomas R. Morse, Karen Ross, 42, of 6 Englert Street in Rochester, also agreed to surrender her nurse's aide certificate at sentencing.

Sentencing was set for September 9th, at which time Judge Morse indicated that he would likely sentence Ross to three years' probation, with a cap of 16 days in the Sheriff Department's work program, and order her to refrain from working in the health care field during the period of her probation.

Patients in nursing homes are each provided with an individual "care plan" to ensure their health and safety. Care plans include specific directions to staff about patient care. For example, whether the patients are so frail that moving them from a wheelchair to a bed requires two staff persons rather than one.

According to prosecutors, the patient, who suffers from dementia, hypertension, and diabetes and is unable to care for herself, requires the assistance of two staff members to be moved from her bed to a wheelchair. On the morning of April 22, 2001, Ross improperly transferred the patient without the assistance of another staff person as required by the patient's care plan. As a result, the patient fell and sustained fractures in both legs. When questioned by nursing home staff, Ross claimed that another aide assisted her in the transfer. Ross later admitted she acted alone.

"Because care shortcuts can hurt elderly patients so seriously, the Legislature has made violation of a care plan a crime," said Spitzer. "Violating care plans is not just ‘cutting corners,' it a crime and one that puts their vulnerable charges at unacceptable risk."

Spitzer commended the administration and staff of the nursing home for their cooperation and assistance in the course of the investigation.

Ross worked for Medical Solutions Agency, a temporary employment agency located at 2701 Culver Road in Rochester. St. John's Home is located at 150 Highland Avenue in Rochester.

Special Assistant Attorney General Timothy McFarland, of the Rochester Regional Office of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, prosecuted the case. Assisting on the investigation were Senior Special Investigator Robert A. Andrews and Supervising Special Investigator Douglas Hinchey.