Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

A Canadian woman developed a stage-four pressure ulcer after spending several weeks at a hospital recovering from hip surgery. The woman, Lola Chiasson Hawkins, had a bed sore so deep it reached to her bone by the time the hospital staff recognized the severity of the problem and took corrective measures. Perhaps even worse, her stage-four bed sore, the most severe kind, was only discovered because of her family’s diligence.

According to her children, Hawkins developed the bed sore after spending fifteen days in the hospital recovering from hip surgery and a bout of pneumonia that followed her surgery. When told by the hospital doctors that their mother had a pressure ulcer from being unable to move during her recovery, the children assumed the doctors would begin treating and caring for the ulcer. Unfortunately, this was not the case. A full 21 days after being originally diagnosed with the pressure ulcer, the children said the room had a smell so foul that it was difficult to even stay inside of the hospital room with their mother. Because the nurses and hospital staff seemed unconcerned, the children began to investigate on their own and learned the pressure ulcer had become much worse – apparently ignored and untreated by the hospital nurses and doctors. One of the children, speaking to CBC.ca, said the sight of the bedsore made him “shocked and sickened.”

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A recent report by StatNews shows that many nursing homes across the country are refusing to admit elderly Americans with opioid addictions, and failing to effectively treat those with addiction already placed in their care. According to the newspaper, elderly Americans who have been prescribed methadone or buprenorphine, medications commonly used to treat opioid addiction, face the “next to impossible” task of being admitted to a nursing home. According to experts cited by the newspaper, many facilities fail to admit these patients because “of stigma, gaps in staff training and a widespread misconception that abstinence is superior to medications for treating addiction.”

Nursing homes appear unaware that denying admission because of an opioid addiction violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to a nurse at Boston Medical Center, only two nursing homes in Boston accept patients taking medication for an opioid addiction. According to the Department of Justice, the government is planning to increase enforcement of facilities that discriminate against individuals taking prescription medication for opioid addiction. Currently, the government agency is looking at detention centers and prisons to ensure compliance. However, the Department of Justice has promised to extend the enforcement push to nursing homes within the year.

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Monitoring and reporting of elder abuse is one of the most important responsibilities delegated to New York regulators. However, recent news reports have cast a light on the accuracy and effectiveness of these reports. Advocates for elder care say the data collected by regulators does not effectively represent the harm caused to nursing home patients when the facilities violate state or federal regulations. Based on the evidence provided, it appears these advocates may be correct.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), only 4 percent of all regulatory violations result in “actual harm” to a resident at its facility. While the data is collected at a federal level, state regulators are required to perform the inspections and relay the information to CMS. In New York, the legal entity responsible for inspecting nursing homes is the New York Department of Health.

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antipsyhotic-and-elderlyBetween 2013 and 2017, the Northern Manor Geriatric Center in Rockland County, New York received more than double the average number of citations by the New York Department of Health, the entity responsible for performing yearly inspections at all nursing homes in the state.  Compared to the statewide average of 34 citations- relating to either standard health or life safety violations – Northern Manor Geriatric Center received 73 citations by the government agency. Of these 73 citations, two were related to “actual harm or immediate jeopardy” – the most serious of violations issued by New York State.

The following are some of the most serious or most recent violations found by the New York State Department of Health: Continue reading

nursing-home-1-300x137Bayberry Nursing Home in New Rochelle, New York received 19 citations for violating New York laws on protecting nursing home residents and ensuring their safety over the previous four years. In the last year alone, the Westchester nursing home received five citations, three of which were categorized as “moderately severe” violations. These are the violations found by the New York State Department of Health in just the previous year:

1. The nursing home had a medication error rate over 5 percent. Under Section 483.25(m)(1) of the Federal Code, a nursing home may not have a medication error rate of over 5 percent. A medication error can include an improperly prescribed medication or an improperly administered medication – typically a prescription drug given at the wrong time, in the wrong dosage, or even a wrong drug altogether. The two examples found in this Westchester nursing home include a patient who received a medication without the extended release coating prescribed by their doctor and a patient who received a dosage of B12 that was 10 times stronger (1,000 mcg) than prescribed (100 mcg). When the resident nurse in the second instance was questioned about the stronger dose, she admitted the resident had been receiving the higher, incorrect dosage for a long period of time.  The consequences of medication errors can be catastrophic. Continue reading

resident-left-in-empty-hallOver the previous four years, the United Hebrew Geriatric Center in Westchester County received 22 citations for violating New York law on nursing home safety. The violations were all categorized as “moderately severe”, according to the New York Department of Health.

While the quality of care received by patients at the facility was higher in some areas of treatment compared to the rest of New York state, the facility scored below the state average in the number of residents who experienced a major fall (2.3 percent) and the percent of residents whose ability to move independently worsened during their long-term stay (14.4 percent). Further, according to the New York State Department of Health, 2.1 percent of nursing home residents received a diagnosis of pressure ulcers, or bed sores – a largely preventable type of harm.

According to the state’s inspectors, the following laws and regulations were violated by the United Hebrew Geriatric Center in the last several years: Continue reading

According to a recent report released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), almost 16 percent of residents at long-term nursing homes are being treated with antipsychotic medications. While down from 24 percent in 2011, the CMS report and many doctors question the efficacy and necessity of these powerful mind-altering medications. According to the report, decreases in antipsychotic usage were seen across all fifty states, with New York seeing one of the smallest reductions.

antipsyhotic-and-elderlyThe majority of elderly residents receiving the antipsychotic medicine are diagnosed with dementia. Antipsychotic drugs, such as Abilify, Seroquel, Risperdal, and Zyprexa, have not been proven to treat dementia, nor have these drugs been shown to reduce the symptoms of dementia. In some instances, antipsychotic medication can also cause serious side effects for the senior citizens who have been prescribed these drugs. In addition to a higher rate of death, antipsychotic drugs also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and slip and fall accidents. Consequently, medical associations and patient advocacy groups believe the number of dementia patients taking antipsychotics should be closer to zero. Continue reading

wallet-300x225The Attorney General’s Office in New York announced the indictment of two Brooklyn men for running a massive scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid recipients from healthcare clinics in the Bronx and Manhattan. According to the Attorney General, Tea Kaganovich and Ramazi Mitiashvili, operated three separate companies, Sophisticated Imaging, Inc., East Coast Diagnosists and East West Management, for the sole purpose of defrauding the federal health care system meant to care for the poor and elderly. The Brooklyn men apparently defrauded the government in the amount of $8 million dollars, often to the harm of actual New York residents who looked to the companies to treat their healthcare problems.

The clinics were located at 2423 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in Manhattan and 2781 Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Responding to the charges, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “Medicaid is meant to be a healthcare safety net for New Yorkers, not a bank account for criminals.” Continue reading

A new report by Time Magazine shines a harsh light on the hospice care industry in America – reporting that 21 percent of hospices, accounting for more than 84,000 patients, failed to provide critical care to patients in 2015.  The report, which includes vivid and heartbreaking stories, points towards a largely unregulated industry that received almost $16 billion in federal Medicare dollars last year.

sick-man-nursing-home-300x200Hospice is provided to Medicaid patients if they are expected to pass away within six months. Starting in the 1970s, hospice care focuses on relieving the symptoms of a patient and providing “comfort care.” The use of hospice care has become increasingly popular in the last couple decades.  According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, enrollment in hospice care has more than doubled since 2000.

While most Americans think of hospice as a location, the reality is that most Americans utilize hospice care so they can pass away in their own home. With 86 percent of Americans saying they want to die at home, the trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon, either.

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sick-man-nursing-home-300x200In August of 2016, the New York State Veteran’s Home in Montrose, New York had a horrific rhinovirus outbreak. At one point, the facility in Westchester had one-out-of-every-four residents sick with the virus. Altogether, there were 58 documented cases of rhinovirus at the 221-bed retirement home for veterans. Sadly, four of the elderly residents with rhinovirus passed away.

Speaking to ABC News 7, Dr. Dennis Nash of the CUNY School of Public Health said that “If so many are affected by the same infectious disease, it does point to infection control issues. And that’s something that the state will want to be looking at right away.” At the time, the New York Department of Health told ABC News that they were investigating the outbreak and whether the nursing home facility had implemented sufficient infection prevention and control measures.

However, it does not appear that the New York Department of Health investigation went very far. The Department of Health provides a “profile” for each assisted living facility or retirement home in the Empire State. According to its profile on the New York State Veterans Home at Montrose, the nursing home facility had zero citations related to “actual harm or immediate jeopardy.” Continue reading

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