MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — An alarm sounding every 15 seconds was ignored for more than two hours before a patient who was not connected to a required ventilator died, a state prosecutor said Tuesday in announcing civil and criminal charges against the operators and nine employees of a suburban New York nursing home.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a 58-page civil complaint that operators and staff of the Medford Multicare Center for Living, Inc., had shown a "history of neglect of Medford's vulnerable residents," since the 320-bed facility on eastern Long Island opened in 2003.
Schneiderman noted that six nursing home employees had previously been prosecuted in 2008 on charges of neglecting patients, and contended conditions at the facility had not improved since. In a civil complaint, he noted that the nursing home claimed to be "dedicated to improving the lives of our residents and families with competence, enthusiasm, honesty, respect and love."
"Nothing could be further from the truth," the civil complaint said. "Medford's owners have instead dedicated themselves to lining their own pockets and improving their families' philanthropic reputation at home and abroad while turning a blind eye to the persistent neglect of its residents by senior management and staff."
In the criminal case, Schneiderman charges one employee, identified as Kethlie Joseph, 61, of Brentwood, with criminally negligent homicide in the October 2012 death of a 72-year-old patient who was supposed to be connected to a ventilator. The name of Joseph's attorney was not immediately available.
Court documents allege that the patient's "pulse oximeter alarm sounded every 15 seconds for two hours during the night shift. No one responded despite the fact that alarms were sounding at three locations on the unit and one staff member was specifically tasked with watching the monitor at the nursing station."
The dead woman, identified by her family as Aurelia Rios of Central Islip, intends to file a malpractice lawsuit against the facility, attorney Chris Mauro said.
"We were shocked because it didn't seem right. They told us she was unresponsive. I couldn't believe it," Rios's daughter, Michelle Giamarino, told reporters Tuesday. "I don't want anyone else's mom, sister, brother, father to pass like this. It's not fair, she deserved better."
Six others, including the licensed administrator, David Fielding, 56, of West Lido Beach, and Christine Boylan, director of respiratory therapy, also were charged with participating in a cover-up of the death, which was eventually reported to authorities by a whistleblower at the nursing home.
Two other employees were charged with falsifying documents involving injuries to other patients at the facility.
Attorneys for Fielding and Boylan said their clients would vigorously fight the charges. Attorney Brian Griffin said his client, Fielding, was a recognized expert in the nursing home field who has worked since being hired in 2009 to improve conditions at the Medford facility. Attorney William Kephart said the charges against Boylan were "completely false; she is a hard-working professional who did everything she could to assist her patients."
A spokesman for the nursing home said in a statement that the facility "has a history of going beyond what is required.
"Over the past five years, the facility has done increasingly well on its Department of Health inspections, and on its most recent review last August, did not receive a single infraction," said Hank Sheinkopf. He said all the employees charged in Tuesday's complaint have been placed on paid administrative leave.
"Because we believe that people are innocent until proven guilty, they will continue to be paid while these issues are under review," he said.