More Details Emerge In Local Nursing Home Abuse Case

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice
The saga of the Northwoods Rehabilitations and Extended Care Facility continues. In April, I wrote about how fourteen nurses, nurses aides and a physicians' assistant at the Northwoods Rehabilitation and Extended Care Facility, a nursing home near Troy, New York, were charged with endangering the welfare of elderly residents and felony falsification of nursing home records. Last week,  nine members of the staff were named in a 175 page indictment charging them with including:  physician assistant, Julia Roske, 43, of Guilderland, certified nursing assistants, Jessica Tremper, 29, of Troy, and Sharon John, 54, of New York, and licensed practical nurses, Gail Klein, 61, of Mechanicville, Linda Vogt, 61, of Schaghticoke, Leslie Mayo, 53, of Watervliet, Alicia Smith, 36, of Schenectady; Lisa Sousie, 44, and Kathleen Osgood, 38. Each faces counts of falsifying business records, endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person; and willful violation of health laws. The cases against the five other persons were settled with guilty pleas.

I had previously written about how the abuse was discovered after an investigation, which was ordered by Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo produced surveillance video showing severe abuse and neglect to residents. The surveillance video revealed that the staff routinely failed to turn and position immobile residents, failed to administer medications, did not treat residents for pressure sores, and did not check residents for incontinence or change undergarments for long periods of time. An additional investigation also showed that staff members altered patients' medical records to cover up the abuse. I also wrote about how this is not the first time that the facility has been caught in an abuse scandal. In January 2010, a male certified nurse and former aide, Robert Gundersen at Northwoods pleaded guilty to sexually abusing an incapacitated 78 year-old female resident.

New details now continue to emerge concerning how the investigation first began. According to recent news accounts, investigators from the Attorney General's office first visited the site in 2009 to build their case against Gundersen. During the probe, investigators discovered disturbing information about abuse occuring within the nursing home that they would not have otherwise acquired. This led them to the decision to set up a hidden camera within the room of a 53-year old patient for a six-week period in March and April 2009. The patient is identified in court documents as S.B. It is unclear whether any other patient besides S.B. was abused. All nine of those named in the recent indictment were arraigned last week and all have pled not guilty. They were released on their own recognizance. Their trial is expected to start on January 31, 2011.

I am very interested to see whether the nine staff members named in the indictment decide to go to trial or if they eventually all plead guilty. Although I do not have information on the evidence against each, it is likely that evidence such as the video surveillance tape and damning testimony from the five staff members that have already plead guilty will be utilized in the case. If the case does go to trial, it will be interesting to see if "S.B" was the only patient abused or if there were numerous patients abused and neglected at the facility. As always, I am proud of the job that the Attorney General's office is doing and hope to see justice done in this case. I will continue to keep you updated on developments in the case.
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