Doolan Platt & Setareh, LLP Obtain $1.5 Million Dollar Verdict in Overmedication Case

Last Thursday, a jury in Clinton County, New York awarded $1.5 million dollars to the estate of one of our clients, John Solari, who died on August 1, 2011 after being given another patient’s medication. At the time, Mr. Solari was a patient at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH), in Plattsburgh, New York.

On July 29, 2011, a nurse at CVPH, who was filling in for a co-worker who was out sick, gave Mr. Solari controlled-release morphine in his applesauce. This medication was supposed to be given to another patient, but the nurse misidentified Mr. Solari, and gave it to him instead. Mr. Solari died three days later.

My associate Benjamin Decker, Esq. and I brought this case to trial on behalf of Mr. Solari’s daughter, who told the Press Republican, “The issue for me was accountability…Nobody would admit accountability  for my father’s death.” At Doolan Platt & Setareh, we strongly believe in holding those who commit negligence and abuse accountable. As I told Felicia Krieg, the Press Republican reporter, I hope this verdict brings about change.

Medford Multicare Center Investigation Leads to Arrests

Nine people have been arrested after an investigation by the state attorney general’s office into Medford Multicare Center, a nursing home located on Long Island, according to an NBC New York article. Kethlie Joseph, an employee of Medford, was charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of 72-year-old Aurelia Rios, a former patient of the nursing home. Ms. Rios died after becoming disconnected from her ventilator. Aides neglected to respond to an alarm that sounded every 15 seconds for over two hours.

Six other employees, including the administrator, David Fielding, have been charged with participating in the cover up of the death. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a 58-page civil complaint stating there had been a “history of neglect of Medford’s most vulnerable residents.” Two additional employees have been charged with falsifying documents regarding injuries to other patients at Medford.

Falsifying records and covering up incidents are recurring problems in nursing homes. Many times these incidents go undiscovered. In a previous blog post, I mentioned the state investigation into Northwoods Rehabilitation Facility in upstate New York. These investigations are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to protect the rights of loved ones in nursing homes. If you believe a loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect, contact a lawyer immediately.

Privacy and Nursing Home Surveillance

In recent months, with revelations concerning consumer credit card theft and the National Security Agency surveillance programs, the notion of privacy has again entered the public consciousness. Now seems like a good time to discuss the debate that continues over privacy and surveillance in the world of long-term care facilities. Unfortunately, abuse and neglect occur far too often in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and, in an attempt to protect loved ones, families are turning to technology. Small, sometimes hidden, cameras, often referred to as “granny cams,” are becoming increasingly popular as families and governments seek to ensure proper care.

In a New York Times article last November, Jan Hoffman recounts the story of a nursing home resident, Eryetha Mayberry, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ms. Mayberry and her family had noticed a few personal belongings go missing and installed a hidden camera in an attempt to catch a thief. When Ms. Mayberry’s daughter finally watched the footage, however, she was astonished and horrified by what she discovered. Staff members had been abusing her mother.

As a result of the outrage that arose following the discovery of Ms. Mayberry’s abuse, Oklahoma became the third state to explicitly allow surveillance cameras to be used in the rooms of residents of long-term care facilities. New Mexico and Texas are the other two states that have passed similar legislation. Although New York has passed no specific legislation allowing individuals to maintain surveillance cameras in their rooms, the government, specifically Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, has been using hidden cameras in nursing home investigations throughout the state.

In March of 2010, then-Attorney General Cuomo reported that 22 arrests had been made after investigations into Northwoods Rehabilitation and Extended Care Facility in Troy, NY and Williamsville Suburban Nursing Home in Amherst, NY. Surveillance footage played key roles in both investigations, revealing instances of alleged neglect and conduct endangering residents.

Proponents of video cameras understand that, without surveillance, much of the abuse and neglect that is occurring may never be discovered. In addition to uncovering instances of mistreatment, many hope that cameras, coupled with posted notices of surveillance, will prevent abuse and neglect from occurring in the first place.

However, nursing home surveillance has encountered opposition. Opponents claim that these cameras are an invasion of privacy. A frequently used argument against the use of cameras is that the monitoring infringes not only on the rights of a loved one, but also the rights of fellow residents. Cameras may catch residents during their most intimate moments, such as when they are dressing or undressing. Some nursing home operators also believe surveillance may reduce staff morale, claiming that it may become more difficult to hire and retain caretakers if they constantly feel threatened by the monitoring of video cameras (CNA’s Cost and Benefits of Video Surveillance).

These arguments against video monitoring may be valid. But is slightly less privacy worth the potential reduction in abuse and neglect, along with the peace of mind gained by residents and their families? With the right rules and regulations, I think so.

Woman in Assisted Living Facility dies after being denied CPR

There is no legal requirement for licensed nursing staff to perform CPR; however, it is the Standard of Care in New York State among licensed nursing staff.

Authorities are launching a criminal investigation into the death of an 87-year-old woman who was denied CPR at a California independent living home by a woman who identified herself to a 911 dispatcher as a nurse – but the facility now says she isn’t one.

During the call last Tuesday, an unidentified woman called from her cell phone, and asked for paramedics to be sent to help Lorraine Bayless, who collapsed in the dining room of the independent living building in Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield.  Later, a woman who identified herself as the nurse got on the phone and told dispatcher Tracey Halvorson she was not permitted to do CPR on the woman.

She said one of the home’s policies prevented her from doing CPR, according to an audio recording of the call.  ”In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community, our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives,” Executive Director Toomer said. “That is the protocol we followed.”

The harrowing 7-minute, 16-second call also raised concerns that policies at senior living facilities could prevent staff from intervening in medical emergencies. It prompted calls for legislation Monday to prevent a repeat of what happened at Glenwood Gardens.

“This is a wakeup call,” said Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, chair of the California Assembly Aging and Long-term Care Committee. “I’m sorry it took a tragedy like this to bring it to our attention.”

In New York State we have the Assisted Living Reform Act (“ALRA”) with corresponding regulations. In reviewing both New York State regulations and ALRA, I was unable to find a requirement that CPR be performed.  There was a proposal submitted by the Department of Health for a licensed registered nurse to be on staff 24 hours a day at assisted/independent living facilities; however that proposal was successfully challenged and there is still no requirement in place.  Had such a regulation been effective, then that staff member would have been in a position to perform CPR.

Below is a link to the article:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/03/05/spokesman-says-woman-who-refused-to-give-cpr-to-dying-87-year-old-wasnt-nurse/

How to Submit a Complaint to the Department of Health

You should submit your complaint to the New York State Department of Health as soon as possible. Click on this link to download the required complaint form, in PDF format. Be as detailed as possible. Make sure to include the name of the nursing home, the name and date of birth of the resident, names of any witnesses or caregivers that witnessed the incident you are complaining about, your contact information, the date of the incident, your attorney’s contact information, and all injuries you claim occurred. In the event you do not know the exact date, include an approximate date span, i.e. during the month of August. Continue reading

Decisions

One of the most difficult decisions a family may have to make is to decide whether to put a loved one in the care of a nursing home. Today approximately 1.6 million elderly and disabled Americans are cared for in nearly 17,000 U.S. nursing homes. According to the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), which administers Medicare and oversees the state Medicaid programs, nursing homes care for about one in 20 Americans over the age of 65. As the percentage of our population over age 65 increases, the percentage of elderly people entering nursing homes will likewise increase. Continue reading