Jolly Stewart, 55, a former certified nurse’s aide at the now-closed John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Suffolk County, New York, was arrested and charged in April 2014 for injuring a 57-year-old quadriplegic patient under her care. Appearing before a judge in Suffolk County District Court, Stewart, a Middle Island resident, was charged with two felony counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, one count of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person, and one misdemeanor count of Wilful Violation of Health Laws. If found guilty of all charges, Stewart faces up to four years in prison. She was released on her own recognizance.
According to the criminal complaint, on August 23, 2012, Stewart was taking care of a 57-year-old quadriplegic patient who suffered from other ailments and was also totally dependent upon staff members for her care. The patient’s care plan stated that the immobile resident required two staff members to utilize a special mechanical lift in order for her to be transferred between her bed and wheelchair. However, prosecutors allege that Stewart ignored the specific directions of the care plan and attempted to transfer the patient from her wheelchair to her bed without another staff member to assist her in using the mechanical life. As a result, the patient fell to the floor and suffered a serious five-inch laceration to her head, a fractured knee, and bruising to her heel and buttocks area.
In an attempt to cover up her negligence that resulted in the patient’s injuries, the criminal complaint alleges that Stewart did not report the incident to her supervisor to seek appropriate medical treatment for the seriously injured resident. The complaint alleges that Stewart simply picked the resident up from the floor and placed her back in the lift. When questioned by nursing home staff, who saw that the patient was visibly hurt, Stewart stated that the resident accidentally hit her head against a bar on the mechanical lift as the result of her own movements. Stewart then allegedly falsified the patient’s medical chart and stated that she properly followed the patient’s care plan, which required that two staff members are required to use the special mechanical lift during patient transfers.
In order to ensure that each resident receives appropriate care and treatment, and in order to prevent residents from sustaining possible injuries, staff members of nursing homes collaborate in developing highly specific care plans for each patient. Such plans administer directions to staff on providing proper medications, meals, and the transferring of patients. Commenting on Stewart’s alleged negligence to follow a resident’s care plan, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who thanked the New York State Health Department for referring the incident to his office, emphasized the importance of nursing home staff members to follow the instructions provided in each patient’s individualized plan. He stated, “Short-circuiting patient care plans puts patients in physical danger and is a crime. My office takes these cases extremely seriously and will seek justice for the victim and the victim’s loved ones.”
The John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Center was a 264-bed facility run by Suffolk County. The publicly operated center was closed in June 2013.