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Post date: February 17 2015

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest Of Utica Nurse For Allegedly Failing To Provide Notification Of Patient's Panic-High Potassium Level In Lab Results

Panic-High Potassium Levels Can Cause Arrhythmia And Cause The Heart To Stop

UTICA – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and arraignment of Robert Hartnett, 57, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) from Utica, for allegedly failing to report panic-high potassium levels appearing in a patient’s laboratory test results. The criminal complaint alleges that Hartnett failed to follow protocol by not reporting the lab results to a doctor or a nursing supervisor, putting the patient’s health at serious risk. Hartnett was charged with Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the Second Degree and Wilful Violation of Health Laws. Hartnett was arraigned in Utica City Court before The Honorable Ralph J. Eannace, Jr., where he entered a not guilty plea and was released on his own recognizance.

“Every New Yorker deserves the peace of mind that their loved ones are receiving appropriate care in nursing facilities across our state, and my office will hold people accountable when they fail to meet their obligations,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Elderly patients are often at high risk and it is important that proper protocols are followed to keep people safe.”

The charges stem from an alleged incident on March 10, 2014 at Heritage Health Care Center in Utica when Hartnett is accused of failing to notify appropriate personnel about the panic-high potassium level in a patient’s lab results. As a result of his alleged failure to follow the nursing home’s notification policy, the resident was given an additional ordered dose of potassium. Panic-high potassium levels can cause arrhythmia and also cause the heart to stop. The patient had to be given another medication to lower his potassium level.

Hartnett began working at the facility in July of 2013 and faces a maximum of one year in jail if found guilty.

The charges against Hartnett are accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This case was investigated by Special Investigator Scott Petucci, with assistance from the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s Deputy Chief Investigator, William Falk. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General and Regional Director Ralph D. Tortora, III, of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s Syracuse Regional Office. Catherine Wagner is Chief of Criminal Investigations-Upstate. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is led by Acting Director Amy Held. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.