Cuomo has eyes on nursing home industry

By John O'Brien | Oct 21, 2008


BUFFALO, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - Hidden cameras in nursing homes have resulted in 26 convictions of workers accused of endangering patients' health and falsifying records, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

Cuomo said his Medical Fraud Control Unit uses hidden cameras more than any other similar agency to prosecute mistreatment of patients.

"We trust health care facilities to provide top level care for our loved ones," Cuomo said. "These are unfortunately some caregivers who cut corners and shirk their duties, leaving patients who cannot help themselves in dire jeopardy.

"In Western New York, we are quite literally keeping an eye on New York's most vulnerable."

Cuomo's staff put the cameras in the patients' rooms and said it found the following problems:

-Failing to give water and hydration to an immobile patient and leaving him in his own waste for nearly a full day;

-Routinely failing to turn and position an immobile resident, putting the resident at serious risk of dangerous skin breakdown and pressure sores;

-Failing to shower a patient twice a week as required surveillance footage showed that at one point the patient had not been showered for more than a week;

-Failing to perform range-of-motion exercises on a resident's extremities to prevent muscle contraction;
-Only one caregiver transferring a bed-ridden patient to and from his wheelchair with a mechanical lift that required two people to operate, resulting in the resident's head striking the side rail of the bed;

-Leaving a comatose 59-year old patient in his own waste for hours at a time, while suffering from skin lesions and not receiving proper maintenance for his feeding tube. There were over 40 occasions when the resident was not washed after an incontinent episode, and his oral care was sporadic;

-Failing to apply a necessary skin ointment for a patient in a chronic vegetative state, as well as failing to follow gastrointestinal tube protocol, and failing to ensure that the patient was turned and repositioned every two hours;

-Sleeping, watching movies or leaving the facility during shifts where they were responsible for caring for patient; and

-Falsifying records to conceal the neglect and endangerment.

Cuomo said his is the first attorney general office to use evidence obtained by a hidden camera in a trial against nursing home employees.

"This is a warning to all nursing homes and facilities: We are watching you," Cuomo said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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