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January 13 2006 - MAN IN HOME DIDN'T GET PROPER CARE

HIDDEN CAMERA IN CORTLAND CARE FACILITY SHOWS HE WAS NEGLECTED, STATE SAYS.
01/13/2006

The state attorney general's office says a hidden camera it planted in a patient's room at the Northwoods Rehabilitation and Extended Care Facility in Cortland for seven weeks early last year showed the man did not get the extensive care he needed.  He was in a persistent vegetative state that required him to be turned and repositioned every two hours.  Caretakers were supposed to exercise his limbs to prevent muscle atrophy and to apply moisturizing cream to prevent bedsores.  The secret cameras were used with the permission of the patients’ relatives.

Northwoods employees neglected him, then falsified records to show he received the required care, according to criminal complaints filed in the investigation announced last week by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

"He was supposed to be turned and positioned every two hours, but that never happened on any given day," said Ralph Tortora, who heads the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in Syracuse and is prosecuting the case. "There were times when during incontinence care when they didn't clean him."

Five employees of Northwoods - three licensed practical nurses and two certified nurse assistants - were arrested and charged with neglect, endangerment and falsifying business records. The arrests are part of a larger statewide investigation that for the first time is using secret cameras to detect nursing home neglect.

Fourteen employees of a Rochester nursing home also were charged after secretly recorded videotape showed evidence of neglect at that facility, according to the attorney general's office.

The use of secret cameras to investigate nursing homes was praised by a consumer group and criticized by an association representing nursing homes.

The hidden cameras provide solid evidence that's often lacking in nursing home neglect investigations, said Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, which advocates on behalf of nursing home residents statewide. "It's really a pretty cutting-edge way of holding nursing homes accountable," he said. "I'm really thrilled to see it."

Mollot said it's unfair to blame the problem of neglect entirely on nurses and nurse aides. "They are under so much pressure and their jobs often are literally impossible," he said. "The problem is from the top down. This is management and administration that is not taking care of residents and is derelict in its legal responsibilities."

Dan Curran of the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, a nursing home group, said the use of hidden cameras could jeopardize patient privacy. "With half of all nursing home residents having some sort of dementia or cognitive impairment, is it ethical to videotape them when they cannot be aware of it?" he said.
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