Highpointe Employees Charged Following Hidden Camera Investigation

Continuing to make use of hidden cameras during investigations, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced charges against 17 employees of Highpointe on Michigan Health Care Facility in Buffalo, NY. The charges are based on video footage recorded by the Attorney General’s Office that allegedly reveals the neglect of a 56-year-old resident. According to the press release, “nurses failed to dispense pain medication and check on the resident,” and “aides neglected to check on the resident, failed to give him liquids and failed to perform incontinent care.” In addition, the video footage also revealed that the nurses and aides falsified documents to cover up their alleged neglect.

The resident of Highpointe, who had Huntington’s disease and was bedridden and unable to walk, was fully dependent on the facility’s staff. The Attorney General announced that his office “will use every tool in our arsenal…to ensure that nursing home residents receive the care they need and the respect they deserve.” Many residents of nursing homes, like the 56-year-old resident of Highpointe, do need someone to provide a watchful eye over their care. While the owners of nursing homes should be the ones to provide this oversight, many times, their lack of oversight adds to or causes neglect and abuse.

The Attorney General’s Office continues to demonstrate that it will be a watchful eye in nursing homes. In a previous blog post, I wrote about surveillance in nursing homes, and the Attorney General’s Office’s use of hidden cameras back in 2010. With advancements in technology, it is arguably becoming easier to oversee the care provided in long-term care settings. I am hopeful that the Attorney General’s commitment to oversight, coupled with his office’s willingness to use technology, will set an example for nursing home owners and the public throughout New York State.

3 Deaths at the Suffolk Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing

Yesterday, NBC4 New York’s Chris Glorioso and the station’s I-Team reported on their investigation into three deaths at the Suffolk Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing on Long Island. According to family members, Thomas Bischoff and Raymond Curiale, residents of the nursing home and Korean War veterans, both died as a result of neglect.

According to medical records from Brookhaven Memorial Medical Center, Mr. Bischoff died of a cardiac arrest resulting from a septic infection. The sepsis was partly caused by bedsores, which can form if nursing home staff neglect to provide basic care. You can find more information on bedsores, also referred to as pressure ulcers, here.

After being admitted to the nursing home in March 2013, part of Raymond Curiale’s care required staff members to monitor him every 15 minutes. On July 15,2013, Mr. Curiale accidentally hanged himself. Not one staff member checked on Mr. Curiale for 57 minutes, the time frame during which he died.

Glorioso’s article also mentions another Suffolk Center patient who overdosed three times on narcotic painkillers and died last May. In this matter as well, the facility’s staff failed to properly watch over the resident.

In response, the Suffolk Center released a statement stating that the nursing home provides “quality care” for its residents.

This history of neglect is unacceptable for any facility that cares for our loved ones. If you have any questions, concerns, or information about possible abuse or neglect at the Suffolk Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, you can contact Benjamin Decker, Esq. at (518) 621-4210 or benjamin@dpsattorneys.com.

NBC4 Story on Suffolk Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing

Tonight at 11 PM, NBC4 New York will be broadcasting an investigative story concerning the Suffolk Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, a 120 bed facility in Patchogue, NY. When considering nursing home options for loved ones, information is the key to making the right decision. If you have a loved one currently in a nursing home, or are considering nursing home options for a loved one, you should watch this report. Those of you in the New York City area can tune in to NBC4 New York to see the story. If you are outside of NBC4 New York’s broadcast area, I will post a link to the story here on the blog as soon as it is available.

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.