Elesia Howard, a former certified nursing assistant (CNA) at the Pathways Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, a 112-bed facility located in Niskayuna, New York, pled guilty in September 2012 to charges that she pinched a patient’s left breast nipple. The former employee was convicted of Wilful Violation of Public Health Laws and agreed to surrender her CNA certificate. According to the Nurse Aide Registry, the incident took place in April 2012. As a result of her sentence, Howard, will no longer be allowed to work with elderly patients.
After Howard’s conviction, New York State Department of Health (DOH) inspectors determined in January 2013 that the nursing home failed to have an adequate system in place for employees to report allegations of abuse, mistreatment and theft of resident’s property. According to the DOH’s report, a certified occupational therapy assistant and a rehabilitation aide witnessed a CNA verbally abusing a patient, who was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, anxiety and high blood pressure. He was completely dependent upon staff members for his care and treatment.
On November 5, 2012, the two employees witnessed the CNA making derogatory and insulting comments to the brain injured patient. According to the rehabilitation aide, the CNA told the resident, “You’re some big gang buster, and you sh-t and piss your pants. If you knocked my daughter up, I would shoot your d-ck off too.” Although the incident occurred on November 5, the two witnesses did not report it until three days later.
The rehabilitation aide told DOH investigators that she felt unsure about reporting the incident when it first occurred. However, after thinking about it over the weekend, she decided to tell her supervisor. The therapy assistant stated that she didn’t report the incident immediately because she felt that they comments weren’t verbally abusive; rather, she said they were just “degrading.” The administrator who investigated the report determined that the resident wasn’t harmed by the incident. However, he stated that the two employees should have reported the incident immediately as required by law.
DOH investigators also discovered that the CNA accused of the verbal abuse was not prevented from having contact with patients while the investigation took place. The administrator stated that the CNA was not prevented from having such contact because he was not made aware of the incident until the investigation was completed. Moreover, the DOH concluded that the facility failed to re-educate staff members on mandatory reporting requirements. The director of nursing told investigators that such training did not occur because the incident was treated as a “dignity issue” and not as a case of verbal abuse. However, the CNA was reprimanded for the way she spoke to the patient and underwent training on verbal abuse.
According to the “Nursing Home Compare” website, the nursing home was fined $975 in 2011. Overall, the facility was rated as being much above average.