Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Between 2015 and 2019, Briarcliff Manor Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care received 48 citations for violations of public health laws, according to the New York Department of Health on November 2, 2019. The Briarcliff Manor, New York nursing home received these citations after four inspections during that period, in addition to the two fines it received between 2010 and 2016. Briarcliff Manor’s 48 citations are 16 more than the statewide average of 32. The violations described by state surveyors include the following:

1. The nursing home did not develop and implement comprehensive care plans. Section 483.21 of the Federal Code requires nursing home facilities to “develop and implement a comprehensive person-centered care plan for each resident” in accordance with residents’ rights. A March 2019 citation found that Briarcliff Manor did not develop and implement care plans adequate to address one resident’s bladder and bowel incontinence, and one resident’s non-pressure skin conditions. An inspector found that there was no documented evidence of an adequately designed care plan for the resident with incontinence, and that a nurse manager interviewed during an inspection said she did not know why a care plan was not in place. Similarly, the Department of Health found no documented evidence of an adequately designed care plan for a resident’s surgical wound; although a nurse manager attested during an interview that she was responsible for the implementation of care plans, she could not identify the care plan for the surgical wound during a review of the individual’s chart.

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St. Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, New York received 45 citations for violations of public health law between 2015 and 2019, according to state records accessed on November 2, 2019. The citations were issued by the New York State Department of Health, the public entity responsible for enforcing nursing home safety standards, and resulted from six inspections by state surveyors. The violations described by the Department of Health include the following:

1. The nursing home did not ensure the competency of nursing staff. A citation issued in April 2019 described St. Cabrini Nursing Home’s failure to ensure a Certified Nursing Assistant “demonstrated competency in dealing with a confrontational/difficult situation involving the CNA and one resident reviewed for abuse.” Section 483.35 of the Federal Code requires that nursing staff have “appropriate competencies and skills sets to provide nursing and related services to assure resident safety and attain or maintain the highest practicable… well-being of each resident.” In this instance, however, authorities found that the CNA did not properly “communicate or respond” to the conduct of the resident in question, so as to keep circumstances from escalating. The Department of Health’s findings go on to describe a confrontation between two roommates that led to the CNA pushing the resident’s face, which the CNA denied. The CNA was suspended following this incident and later told authorities that “she could have spoken to the resident using different words to be less confrontational.”

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A disgraced doctor pleaded guilty to three charges of manslaughter last week in Queens, according to The New York Daily News, Indicted on felony charges last year, Dr. Lawrence Choy ran a ‘pill mill’ out of his Queens office from 2012 to 2016. The former doctor routinely prescribed the so-called ‘Holy Trinity’ of drugs to his patients – an opioid, a benzodiazepine, and a muscle relaxer. All three medications are both extremely addictive and extremely dangerous because of their ability to suppress breathing and cause an overdose. Tragically, Dr. Choy’s reckless prescribing habits caused three of his patients to fatally overdose.

After the deaths of his patients, Dr. Choy closed his medical practice and fled to Wyoming. The long-distance move did not matter to federal authorities who charged Dr. Choy with 231 crimes last year in a complaint detailing the doctor’s recklessness and indifference to his patient’s suffering. According to prosecutors, Choy’s pill mill in Queens was popular across the entire northeast – patients from New Jersey and Pennsylvania routinely made the trip just to visit Choy. According to federal prosecutors, Choy began doling out oxycodone prescriptions beginning in 2012 when Choy received a tax bill for more than $1 million. Once word got out that Choy would exchange prescriptions for cash, addicts would travel to the Queens doctor to get their fix and drug dealers would travel to get their supply. A single oxycodone pill prescribed by Choy could be sold for $30 on the street, less than the cost of a month’s prescription without insurance.

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An outbreak of a rare blood infection in a New York hospital traced back to an opioid-stealing nurse, reports Gizmodo. According to the technology and science website, six cancer patients developed a serious and rare blood infection from June to July 2018 at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. According to the website, none of the victims died as a result of being infected by Sphingomonas paucimobilis.

The bacterial infection is typically found in soil and water, thus rarely harming people. When six people all came down with the infection – which sickens individuals to the point of constant vomiting – hospital authorities say they suspected a medical contamination. After an investigation at the hospital, authorities realized the common thread between the patients involved a nurse who administered their hydromorphone intravenously.  Hydromorphone is a powerful opioid. In response to questions by hospital investigators, the nurse admitted that she removed a certain amount of medication for the patients and then diluted the syringe with water so the dosage appeared unchanged.

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New York may join the rush of states requiring explicit informed consent for patients undergoing medical exams. The new law aims to prevent medical students and residents from performing pelvic, rectal or prostate exams on patients while they are under anesthesia. Amazingly, these medical exams are routinely performed on men and women while they are under anesthesia. Given the sensitive and personal nature of these exams, medical students and residents have long learned the procedure by using unconscious and anesthetized patients.

“There’s a surprising disconnect between the culture of medicine, where intimate exams without explicit consent of the patient are considered a defensible, standard practice, and the rest of us, who are horrified that a trainee could be allowed to perform a pelvic or rectal exam without asking,” said Amy Paulin, New York Democrat who sponsored the bill. Teaching universities across the country oppose the stricter consent laws, saying that practicing on unconscious patients is necessary to teach medical students. The Association of American Medical Colleges has denounced pelvic exams without explicit consent as “unethical and unacceptable.” According to the newspaper, most – but not all – of the country’s medical schools agree with the association and have already implemented policies requiring explicit consent at their hospitals.

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New York hospitals regularly score on the lower end when it comes to patient safety. According to the CMS, almost 50 hospitals in New York are “one-star facilities” – denoting the lowest possible score by the government agency. In addition to a plethora of poorly-performing hospitals, New York also has several high performing medical facilities. According to U.S. News and World Report, which compiles a list of hospital rankings each year, the system for judging hospitals changed slightly this year with a “new outcome measure” meant to examine how many patients must be readmitted to other hospitals.

According to the national newsmagazine (via LoHud), New York’s top 30 hospitals are:

    1. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia and Cornell in New York

New York regulators finally released a list of hospitals and nursing homes where a deadly and drug-resistant fungus has been found. The disclosure comes after months of haranguing public health officials who had hoped to remain tight-lipped, fearing that naming facilities with the antibiotic-resistant ‘super bug’ could lead to an exodus of patients and nursing home residents. According to the CDC, the fungus – referred to as C. auris – kills one out of every three people it infects. For those with weak immune systems, such as nursing home residents, the number is even higher. Because the fungus appears to be resistant to antibiotics, the CDC is warning that C. auris poses a “global health threat.” 

In general, antibiotic-resistant strains a growing health problem. Public health experts say these so-called ‘superbugs’ infected more than 2.8 million people last year and caused more than 35,000 deaths, reported by LoHud.com. The tri-state area appears to be ground-zero for the problem in America, with its massive population living in close proximity and its status as an international travel hub and destination. The CDC reports that the majority of C. auris infections are at facilities the New York metropolitan area, stretching from New Jersey to Long Island and up into Westchester. After declining to release the list of facilities with the deadly fungus, the New York Department of Health finally relented last month.

Here’s a list of facilities in Westchester and Rockland County which have reported infections of the ‘superbug’ C. auris:

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The Department of Buildings (DOB) is suing to revoke the license of a contractor allegedly responsible for the death of a construction worker earlier this year in Turtle Bay. According to The New York Daily News, Nelson Salinas was working on scaffolding halfway up a 14-story residential building when a coping stone was knocked loose by rigging used to support the scaffolding. The stone hit Salinas in the head and he was rushed to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center where he died from the injuries

After a full investigation, the DOB says the fault lies with Wlodzimierz Tomczak and is now attempting to revoke his special rigger license over the incident. According to the DOB, Tomczak “did not take proper precautions” and could not produce “multiple inspection records… related to the scaffold setup.” 

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Every year, hospitals across the United States are graded on their record for patient safety by the federal government and a nonprofit organization, Leapfrog Group. The federal government uses a “star-based” rating system where hospitals receive a grade between one and five stars, with a one-star rating representing a hospital with serious and widespread safety problems. According to LoHud.com, New York had 48 one-star facilities in the state. Six of these unsafe hospitals were in the Hudson Valley.
Leapfrog Group focuses on more “preventable safety issues”, according to the local newspaper. The metrics used in Leapfrog’s calculations focus on the rate of “infections and medical mistakes, like sponges or tools left in bodies” or “complications such as collapsed lungs.” The nonprofit group assigns a letter grade to each major hospital in the country, which range from an “A” to an “F.” The researchers at Leapfrog point to a study by Johns Hopkins University that found 160,000 deaths each year are caused by “hospital-acquired” conditions – such as infections. Of the 30 hospitals receiving a “D” or “F” grade in New York, two are located in the Hudson Valley. According to Leapfrog, only 12 percent of hospitals nationwide receive a letter grade below “C”.

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According to The New York Times, long-term care hospitals continue to provide poor care to elderly Americans. Long-term care hospitals, also called long term acute care hospitals, provide care typically after a person is being discharged from intensive care and is too sick to return to their nursing home. Close to 400 long-term care hospitals exist in the United States, a number that has dipped in the last decade after skyrocketing in the 90s from just 38.

The proliferation of long-term care hospitals during the period is now largely regarded as unnecessary and many elder care advocates say they harmed individuals while enriching their owners. Because patients at these hospitals are so sick, the hospital receives hefty sums performing multiple procedures and diagnostics on their patients. In 2017 alone, Medicare – which pays for two-thirds of all long-term care stays – paid out an eye-wateringly high 4.5 billion to these several hundred hospitals.

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