Seven workers, including two top administrators, of a poorly-run nursing home in Medford were charged Tuesday in connection with the the death of one of its residents and allegedly covering up the incident, on the same day a civil lawsuit was filed against its owners for neglecting vulnerable customers, New York’s top prosecutor said.
The criminal charges stem from the death of a 72-year-old resident who stopped breathing and “had likely been dead for some time” before a nurse’s aide finally responded, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a news release. An alarm alerting nurses and aides to the distressed resident went ignored for more than two hours, officials alleged.
Authorities believe the resident died after one of the workers failed to connect the resident to a ventilator machine at night, as per doctor’s orders. That worker, 61-year-old Kethlie Joseph of Brentwood, is now facing charges of criminally negligent homicide. Authorities also alleged that Joseph ignored messages to her pager when the resident stopped breathing.
“Today’s arrests and lawsuit send a message that we will not tolerate anyone being neglected or denied life-saving medical treatment while individuals line their own pockets with tens of millions of dollars that Medicaid intended to provide resident care,” Schneiderman said in the news release.
The investigation also led to the arrest of the center’s licensed administrator, 56-year-old David Fieldings, and its director of respiratory therapy, 49-year-old Christine Boylan, for allegedly trying to cover up the incident by concealing computer records related to the resident’s death from state health officials, authorities said.
Schneiderman said in the suit that 17 of Medford Multicare Center’s employees have been convicted of neglect and falsification of records since 2003 to cover up abuse and neglect. He also charged that its owners padded their pockets with at least $60 million in Medicaid funding while the nursing home was hit with 130 violations of state regulations and failed to report more than 4,000 incidents and accidents to state health officials.
In two instance, the suit alleges, the New York State Department of Health found that the facility placed its residents in “immediate jeopardy” of “serious injury, harm, impairment and death.”
And rather than invest in higher quality staffing and improved supervision, owners cut salaries and supplies and collected salaries equal to all 400-plus employees combined, authorities alleged.
Medford Multicare Center released a statement that defended the nursing home’s work with seniors and touted a recent health department review that didn’t list any infractions.
“Not only does the facility meet all safety protocols mandated by the state, it has a history of going beyond what is required,” said nursing home spokesman Hank Sheinkopf. “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.”
The center is “very concerned” by the charges, he added, but the allegations “are not indicative of the excellent quality of care” that the nursing home provides.
Four other licensed employees—Kimberly Lappe, 31, and Victoria Caldwell, 50, both of Medford; Christina Corelli, 37, of East Patchogue; Patricia DiGiovanni, 62, of Port Jefferson—also face charges in connection with the resident’s death.
Authorities also arrested 47-year-old Yolanda Monsalvo of Nesconset and 49-year-old Catherine Reyes of Ridge in separate incidents, alleging neglect and providing false statements to investigators.
The employees who have been charged have all been placed on administrative leave.
“But because we believe that people are innocent until proven guilty,” Sheinkipf said, “they will continue to be paid while these issues are under review.”