Cuomo Announces Undercover Hidden-camera Investigation Into Long Island Nursing Home That Nets Four Health Care Workers For Endangering Welfare Of Patient

MINEOLA, NY (October 7, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrest of four employees of the Medford Multicare Center for Living in Suffolk, after footage from a hidden surveillance camera revealed serious neglect of a resident who required assistance with all activities of daily living, as well as other conduct that endangered the resident. The investigation showed that the employees neglected to move and turn over the patient for hours on end, denied him water and left him sitting in his own waste for nearly a full day. In addition, the footage shows that the four employees falsified records to conceal the patient’s neglect and endangerment. 

Two Licensed Practical Nurses and two Certified Nurse Aides were charged with falsifying business records and endangering the welfare of a physically disabled person in complaints filed in District Court in Central Islip.

Today’s announcement is the fourth case where Cuomo’s office has used hidden cameras to obtain evidence to prosecute health care workers for mistreating patients. Cuomo’s office is currently leading the nation in using hidden surveillance to investigate the abuse of patients at nursing homes.

“Today’s message is clear: my office is watching like a hawk when it comes to the treatment and care of New York’s most vulnerable patients and will not tolerate the kind of disturbing neglect and abuse we’ve witnessed,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “This is the fourth time our hidden-camera surveillance has revealed despicable cases of callous and life-threatening patient treatment at nursing homes across the state.”

Surveillance tapes taken at the Medford Multicare Center for Living in Suffolk over a six-week period revealed that staff routinely failed to turn and position the resident, which put the resident at serious risk of dangerous skin breakdown and pressure sores. Health care workers failed to perform range-of-motion exercises on the resident’s extremities, which were required to prevent his muscles from contracting.

Nurses also habitually failed to provide the resident sufficient hydration.  Instead of giving him water through his gastrostomy tube – his only means of hydration -- as ordered by his physician, they ignored this requirement and fraudulently charted that they had given him the water.  They also failed to take the resident’s apical pulse rate to determine whether it was safe to give him heart medication and fabricated apical pulse rates on his chart to conceal this neglect.  As a result, the resident was at risk of a significant adverse response to the medication.

Staff also failed to change the resident’s brief at least every two hours, as required by his care plan, instead leaving him in his own waste for as long as seven hours at a time. They also failed to shower him as required to keep him clean.  At one point during the surveillance, the resident had not been showered for more than a week.  Again, staff falsely claimed in the resident’s chart that the showers had been provided. 

For the safety of the resident, staff was required to transfer him out of his bed to his wheelchair and from his wheelchair back to his bed using a mechanical Hoyer Lift with the assistance of two caregivers. However, the surveillance recordings revealed that it was common practice for the aides charged today to transfer him without assistance.  In one instance, one of the aides charged today was seen using her cellular telephone while conducting this dangerous transfer without assistance and on another occasion, she banged the resident’s head into the side rail of his bed while performing a one-person transfer.

Charged today are:

  • Rima Chaudhry, LPN, 46, Smithtown, NY;
  • Toni Miller, LPN,   Middle Island, NY;
  • Betty Cheslak, CNA, 52, Rocky Point, NY; and
  • Jacqueline Francis, CNA, 45, Jamaica, NY.

To date across the state, 26 nursing home employees have been convicted based on surveillance recordings.  In addition, one nursing home has been convicted and a nursing home owner has been sued civilly.

The investigation at Medford is continuing and further arrests are anticipated. 

This case is part of MFCU’s on-going nursing home initiative and is being prosecuted by Veronica Bindrim-MacDevitt and James P. Clarke, Special Assistant Attorneys General, under the supervision of Alan Buonpastore, Suffolk Regional Director, assisted by Erik Podszus, Senior Special Investigator, Dawn Scandaliato, Special Investigator, Karen Patterson, RN, Confidential Medical Analyst, Margaret McArdle, Principal Special Audit Investigator and Joanna-Joy Volo, Associate Special Audit Investigator.

The charges against the defendants are only accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.