Attorney General Cuomo Secures Sentencing Of Cortland Nursing Home Company For Patient Neglect

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (May 15, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a nursing home company has been sentenced to pay $15,000 in fines, be barred from the business and accept responsibility for patient neglect that occurred at its Cortland facility.

Highgate LTC Management, LLC was sentenced today in Cortland County Court before Judge Julie Campbell following a criminal conviction for patient neglect at its Northwoods Rehabilitation and Extended Care facility, located on Kellogg Road in Cortland. The company is prohibited from operating a nursing home, long-term care facility or other health care facility.

“New Yorkers trust that nursing home owners like Highgate will provide the professional care that our loved-ones deserve,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “However, this company allowed its employees to provide lax care that placed a patient’s health in peril. This was not a case of neglect by just one aide. My office vigorously pursued the matter to ensure that all involved were prosecuted.”

This trial was the first time in New York that patient neglect was proved by hidden-camera recordings. The evidence at trial showed that multiple employees at the facility (one of four owned by Highgate) neglected an elderly resident and then falsified paperwork to cover it up. The comatose 59-year old patient was left to lie in his own waste for hours at a time, while suffering from skin lesions and not receiving proper maintenance for his feeding tube.

Highgate, headquartered in Niskayuna, was convicted on six counts of Willful Violation of Health Laws (misdemeanors) and three counts of Falsifying Business Records in the 2nd Degree (misdemeanors) in October of 2007 after the hidden camera investigation discovered that the staff at Northwoods did not provide the patient with adequate treatment.

The resident - whose family consented to the camera being installed in the patient’s room - was not turned and positioned every two hours as required to prevent pressure ulcers - but the nursing home’s patient chart falsely stated that he was. In one 18-hour period, the patient was never repositioned. There were over 40 occasions when the resident was not washed after an incontinent episode, and his oral care was sporadic.

During the trial, the former Director of Nursing for Cortland Northwoods admitted that the facility was consistently understaffed and often had fewer employees on duty than their own minimum number required to provide the necessary care to the residents.

Five employees of Highgate were convicted last year for patient neglect and falsifying records, including: Licensed Practical Nurses Teresa Loy, Renee Fulmer and Mary Kenyon, and Certified Nurse Aides Steve Nadeau and Judy Abreu-Boswell.

Besides the Cortland facility, Highgate owns facilities in Troy, Rensselaer and Niskayuna, but all four facilities are being operated by another company, Long Hill Alliance Company, under a receivership order.

Attorney General Cuomo urges New Yorkers who witness or suspect incidences of patient abuse or other types of Medicaid fraud to call the Medicaid fraud tip hotline at 1-866-NYS-FIGHT (697-3444).

This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Ralph D. Tortora, III of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and was investigated by Supervising Special Investigator Michael Brady, Senior Special Investigators Patrick M. Lynch and Michael Ostuni and Special Investigator Christopher M. Burns. Assisting in the investigation were Auditors Paul V. DeMartino, Ronald H. Sienkiewicz and Dejan Budimer.