Hidden camera leads to charges against 17 workers at nursing home

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Eight nurses and nine nursing assistants are being charged with felony and misdemeanor counts for what the New York State Attorney General calls a “pattern of neglect” against a disabled resident at HighPointe on Michigan nursing home.

The 17 now-former employees of the HighPointe appeared in Buffalo City Court Friday.

The 56-year-old resident, who suffered from Huntington’s chorea, a neurological disease that left him non-ambulatory and bedridden, was completely dependent on nursing home staff. Eric Schneiderman announced Friday that a hidden camera placed in his room revealed the 17 employees routinely ignored their duties and the resident’s documented needs.

“Nursing home residents are among our state’s most vulnerable citizens, and the perpetual neglect in this case is shameful,” Schneiderman said.

During the month of June 2013, the Attorney General says nurses failed to dispense pain medication and check on the resident. Aides allegedly neglected to check on the resident, provide him with liquids, and failed to perform incontinent care. Schneiderman says the staff then falsified documents to conceal their neglect.

“These sheets were filled out, both the medication administration form and the two-hour check sheet, were filled out by staff members indicating that they provided this care, when in fact our video surveillance showed they were either not in the room, not present in the room or did not administer the medication or did not administer the care they recorded they did,” said Special Assistant Attorney General Thomas Schleif.

Michael Scinta is an attorney with the Brown Chiari firm, which handles nursing home abuse and neglect cases, but was not involved in this case.Scinta says use of a hidden camera is rare.

“Oftentimes, there’s proof of neglect, but when there’s a suspicion of neglect, where you’re not sure if some neglect’s going on, that’s where the camera can be very beneficial,” said Scinta.

Schleif would not reveal who tipped off the Attorney General’s Office, in this case.

The 17 employees are charged with first degree falsifying business records, first degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person and willful violation of public health laws.

Those charged are:

  • Natalie Galbo, 30, RN, Amherst
  • Shateeka Stevens, 39, LPN, Cheektowaga
  • Michael Howell, 40, LPN, Buffalo
  • Heidi Bowens, 41, LPN, Buffalo
  • Rochelle McNeair-Tisdale, 55, LPN, Buffalo
  • Jamie Cunningham, 26, LPN, Buffalo
  • Cynthia Kozlowski, 60, LPN, Getzville
  • Marlene Sims, 58, LPN, Cheektowaga
  • Rubetta Harrell, CNA, 54, Cheektowaga
  • Nicole Baker, 35, CNA, Buffalo
  • Tiffany Heard-Williams, 35, CNA, Buffalo
  • Ruteasha McCray, 35, CNA, Buffalo
  • Kenissa Henderson, 27, CNA, Buffalo
  • Mariah Robinson, 20, CNA, Buffalo
  • Margaret Glass, 23, CNA, Buffalo
  • Amanda Stuart, 34, CNA, Sloan
  • Hazell Clegatt, 43, CNA, Buffalo

“[The complaints] were not filed under a legal theory of acting in concert or in a conspiracy. So the charges are basically against each individual for various times during the shifts,” Schleif explained.

Kaleida Health released a statement Thursday, before the charges were made public, saying all 17 employees have been fired. Spokesman Mike Hughes said, “This behavior and lack of appropriate care is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. When we were made aware of the situation we took action.”

The Attorney General’s Office thanked Kaleida Health for their cooperation in the investigation.

Schleif pointed out that the former caregivers are not accused of causing the patient’s death, as a result of their actions.

“We have not alleged that the care that was provided was the cause of the death,” he clarified.

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