New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced that John Tamba, a 48 year old CNA from Utica, NY was indicted in October on nine counts of abusing a female patient. Tamba worked at the Focus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at Utica, located at 1445 Kemble St, Utica, NY, and is being held at the Oneida County Jail without bail. Tamba was charged with three counts each of sexual abuse in the first degree, endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person or an incompetent or physically disabled person in the second degree, and willful violation of health laws. If he is convicted on all nine counts he faces up to 21 years in prison.
It is alleged that Tamba engaged in forcible sexual contact with a physically disabled female patient while she was in his care at the nursing home. Tamba was charged by the Medicaid Fraud Unit, which is a part of the Attorney General’s office that is charged with protecting the elderly and disabled from fraud and abuse perpetrated by nursing homes, as well as investigating and prosecuting Medicaid fraud. The Attorney General has repeatedly said how strongly he feels about protecting nursing and long term care patients as they are in a very vulnerable situation. He is quoted in the press release as saying that “those who are charged with protecting the health of the most vulnerable New Yorkers must do that – care for them and not hurt them,” and that his office “will go after those who break the law and seek justice for those who cannot defend themselves.”
The indictments against Tamba come from events which happened while Tamba was working at the Focus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. The upstate New York nursing home offers a range of services to seniors including, independent living apartments, assisted living services, an adult day care program, short or long term rehabilitation, or specialized care for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, the facility also has an extensive record of complaints with the Department of Health. The Department of Health is in charge of regulating and inspecting nursing homes in New York. It publishes information about nursing homes including a range of quality measures, statistics on inspections and complaints and enforcement measures taken by the Department. While nothing in the Attorney General’s press release indicates that Tamba’s actions were caused by the nursing home, it is always important for patients and their families to research nursing and long term care centers before engaging their services.
In the reporting period of November 2010 through October 2014, Focus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center had 67 Standard Health Deficiencies which compares unfavorably to a state wide average of 23. A Standard Health Deficiency is a measure of the quality of care provided by the facility. Nursing homes are routinely inspected by the Department of Health. Trained inspectors, using established protocols, will interview a sample of residents and family members about their life within the nursing home The inspectors also interview caregivers and administrative staff. The home had 15 Life Safety Code Deficiencies, four more than the state average of 11. Life Safety Code Deficiencies are violations of the fire safety regulations set by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). When such violations are discovered the facility must submit a plan of correction to the agency.
Patients and family members who would like more information than is contained on the Department of Health’s website may email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to New York State Department of Health, Division of Residential Services, 875 Central Ave.,Albany, NY 12206 and request a copy of the survey which will have more detail into the citations given to that facility. When writing please include the name of the nursing home, Permanent Facility Identifier, and survey date as they appear on the report.
Abuse of patients in long term care facilities and nursing homes is a serious problem and while not all problems can be avoided with due diligence, the Department of Health’s reports are a good place to start in researching a facility.