In September the NYS Attorney General’s office announced that two certified nurse’s aides at the Erie County Medical Center Skilled Nursing Facility in Buffalo, which has recently changed its name to the Terrace View Long Term Care Facility, have been charged with neglecting an elderly resident of the facility. Donna Laury and Nakeia Green were charged with a range of misdemeanor and felony counts in Buffalo County Court. The Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has said that because “nursing home residents are among our state’s most vulnerable citizens, and the neglect that the victim in this case suffered is reprehensible… my office will not tolerate anyone being neglected by those responsible for their care, and we will use every tool in our arsenal, including hidden cameras, to ensure that those most in need of help are safely cared for and treated with respect and dignity.” The Attorney General’s office through the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is tasked with looking into large scale Medicaid fraud including overbilling, kickbacks, substandard drugs and medical equipment. It also investigates and prosecutes abuse and neglect cases in nursing homes and other health care facilities.
The Terrace View Long Term Care Facility is a 390 bed facility that is part of the ECMC Health Campus on Grider Street in Buffalo. It totes itself as “designed to be patient-centered with a household or neighborhood design that focuses on the latest care delivery models”, but the facilities record with the Department of Health points to more systemic problems within its system. The Department of Health, which keeps detailed records online about nursing home complains and conditions, has received 247 complaints about the Terrace View Long Term Care Facility in the reporting period lasting from October, 2010 until September of 2014. This is a rate of 125.3 complaints per occupied beds which compares to a statewide average of 35.7 complaints per 100 beds. In addition to the citations the facility has had 13 citations following onsite inspections during the reporting period, a number approximately three times the average in the state.
The facility has also been fined several times for quality of care complaints with fines ranging from two thousand to ten thousand dollars and its parent company Erie County Medical Center was involved in a large settlement for Medicaid overbilling. Further information about the facilities inspection record and complaint record may be found on the Department of Health’s website where the department maintains information on all the nursing homes in New York State.
The employees were charged with falsifying business records in the first degree which is a class E felony, endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person which is a class A misdemeanor, and willful violation of public health laws which is an unclassified misdemeanor. The most serious of these charges, falsifying business records in the first degree carries a penalty of up to four years in jail. It is alleged that the employees failed, in violation of the patient’s personal care plan, to use two people while performing incontinence care and failing to use a mechanical lift to transfer the resident. It is also alleged that the employees falsified the patient’s medical records in order to avoid detection.
The patient, who was not named in the Attorney General’s press release and is referred to in court papers as M.H. to protect her privacy, is a 79 year old woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and is unable to walk. She is totally dependent on the care of the nursing home staff driving home the need for laws, regulation and oversight for these vulnerable members of the community who may not be able to advocate for themselves. Families and patients looking into nursing homes should be aware of the inspection and complaint record of the facility they are considering as neglect and abuse is a problem in many facilities in New York.