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Nursing Home and Staff Face Civil and Criminal Charges

Coming from Long Island, New York is a sad story about a lawsuit filed after the death of a patient resident at a nursing home in a town called Medford. A female elderly resident at the Medford Multicare Center for Living passed away in October 2012 from a heart attack. As a news report recounts, the patient was originally admitted to the facility as a rehabilitation patient in what is called the ‘ventilator unit.’

It is reported based on the lawsuit that the resident was not connected to a ventilator one night in spite of the fact her doctor ordered the use of the ventilator overnight. Without the ventilator, the patient allegedly exhibited “a faint pulse and low blood-oxygen level,” and nursing staff at the facility are accused of ignoring both “audible and visual warnings” related to the patient’s dangerous pulse and oxygen level. The family of the patient filed suit against the facility alleging these circumstances and that for “nearly two hours” the staff negligently ignored the patient, and that as a result she died from a heart attack. The lawsuit names the seven staffers on duty the night the patient died, plus the nursing home’s administrator and respiratory therapy director, and cites information from an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office.

Record of Poor Care

The New York State Department of Health had already cited the Medford facility in 2007 for deficiencies in the quality of care of patients, and in 2008 six employees of the facility were charged and convicted on charges of neglecting patients and falsifying records. Unfortunately the facility could not get its act together, as the state Attorney General’s office reported that 22% of its Medicaid funding, amounting to at least $60 million, were kept by the owners of the facility. Additionally, 17 nurses and aides “pled guilty to neglect and falsifying records,” while the state Department of Health cited the facility for 130 violations, and “5,000 incidents and accidents” occurred since 2008 but a mere 60 were reported to the state as mandated by statute. This formed the basis of a separate civil suit brought by the state against the nursing home. Interestingly, hidden camera footage by the state Medicaid Fraud Unit helped provide evidence for the suit.

In the aftermath of this sad death, the state Attorney General in February 2014 arrested the individuals allegedly implicated in the neglect and subsequent death. The charges were willfully violating health laws and/or falsifying records and keeping records from the Department of Health while it conducted its investigation. Subsequent to this, many in the legislature called for the Medford nursing home to be closed down, largely due to this sad case as well as the horrendous performance history. In late May 2014, “at least six” of those arrested in connection with the death were indicted by a county grand jury for the neglect and cover-up. In all there were 46 counts for the “neglect and abuse, falsifying business records, obstructing government administration, tampering with physical evidence and endangering an incompetent individual.” The administrator was charged with the most serious: negligent homicide.

This scary incident underscores not just the importance of vetting nursing homes and understanding their histories. Additionally, it also underscores the vital role our government and state agencies play in investigating nursing homes, making this information public, and taking action both civilly and criminally against those who so grossly violate so many laws.

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