Two registered nurses and one certified nurse aid were convicted in a Nassau County courtroom for willful violation of health laws in a tragic case that led to the death of an 81-year-old nursing home resident at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Unionville, NY, according to LongIsland.com. According to prosecutors, the elderly resident – both ventilator-dependent and in a wheelchair – somehow became disconnected from his ventilator, rending him unable to breathe.
In situations of life-and-death, the nursing home utilizes distinct auditory and visual alarms that sound throughout the unit. Despite the sounding of the alarm and its ubiquity across the entire nursing home, the two nurses, Sijimole Reji and Annieamma Augustine, along with the certified nurse aid, Martine Morland, did not respond for a full nine minutes. By the time the ventilator was reconnected, the elderly woman was unconscious and passed away the next day.
The jury rejected the nursing home staff’s argument that they suffered from “alarm fatigue” with 2,000-plus alerts going every 24-hours at the nursing home. Instead, the jury held the staff accountable for “failing to provide the resident with timely, consistent, safe, adequate and appropriate services, treatment, and care. One of the nurses also received a conviction for falsifying medical records, in an attempt to cover up the culpability of the staff on the night of the resident’s death. Notably, the jury declined to find the nursing home staffers guilty of the more serious charge of negligent homicide.
Commenting on the verdict, Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood said, “We are pleased that the jury held the defendants accountable to their obligations under public health laws. My office will continue to bring cases where medical professionals ignore a patient’s basic human needs or place a nursing home resident in a life-threatening situation.” The attorney for the nurses said he would file post-trial motions and that his client planned to appeal the ruling.