New York state prosecutors have added two more people to the list of employees at Medford Multicare Center for Living, Inc. who are being charged with the 2012 death of a patient. All nine staff members were arraigned on Thursday, and all choose to plead not guilty. “The negligence alleged in this case is criminal and will not be tolerated in New York nursing homes,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman about the case.
Aurelia Rios, of Central Islip, was a 72-year-old temporary patient at Medford nursing home on Long Island, rehabilitating from a bout of pneumonia. On Oct. 26, 2012, she began having trouble breathing. Multiple alarms went off indicating her distress, and the employees, which included nurses, nurse’s aides, and a respiratory therapist, failed to act, even though the alarms went off every 15 seconds for over two hours until Rios finally died. Prosecutors additionally allege that Rios had not been attached to a ventilator either, despite her doctor’s orders.
After Rios died, prosecutors say that the employees actively attempted to cover up the reason for her death, lying both to the state health investigators, as well as Rios’s family — they were originally told by the nursing home that she had died of a heart attack. Some said that the alarms were not beeping even though records said they were, and others claimed they saw Rios alive at a point where investigators knew she was already dead. Additional charges include falsifying business records and tampering with physical evidence, according to Newsday.
Kethlie Joseph, a respiratory therapist, is being charged with the most serious crime of negligent homicide, owing to her decision not to put Rios on the ventilator she required.
“I believe nursing home abuse is becoming so pervasive today because of the economics of our times, cost cutting procedures have led to the decline of the general well being of the nursing home residents, and in some cases, death of elderly entrusted to the facilities care,” says Michael Maggiano, Attorney at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi. “Better governmental controls would help, many residents live distant from their relatives who cannot regularly be there. To say that the family members need to be on the lookout is dangerous, what if there is no one to look out for these folks?”
Elderly abuse remains a large problem among nursing homes around the country. Despite the accessibility of Adult Protective Services, studies estimate that only about one in ever 14 cases of elder abuse get reported to authorities.