Investigation of Long Island Nursing Home Death Leads to Nine Arrests

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The investigation into the death of a Long Island nursing home resident by the state attorney general has led to a total of nine arrests. According to Eyewitness News, one of the nine is being charged with criminally negligent homicide. Prosecutors say that a 72-year old woman died in October 2012 when staff members failed to respond to ventilator alarms for two hours at Medford Multicare Center.

Aurelia Rios stayed at the nursing home in 2012 to receive rehabilitation after being hospitalized for a breathing disorder. Her doctor ordered that she be connected to a ventilator. But when warning alarms blared for two hours indicating that she was disconnected from the machine, none of the staff responded. Even worse, prosecutors allege that the staff tried to cover up the negligence by falsifying documents. Her daughter, Michelle Giamarino, was told that her mother died of a heart attack.

“I just pray that she was asleep. I don’t want her to be awake, try to scream and no sound came out,” Giamarino said to Eyewitness News.

Seven staff members were arrested in February, including registered nurse Kimberly Lappe, 31, of Medford; licensed practical nurse Victoria Caldwell, 51, of Medford; aide Christina Corelli, 37, of East Patchogue; aide Patricia DiGiovanni, 62, of Port Jefferson; licensed administrator David Fielding, 56, of West Lido Beach; director of respiratory therapy Christine Boylan, 49, of Mastic; and respiratory therapist Kethlie Joseph, 62, of Brentwood.

More recently, Marianne Fassino, 53, of Shirley and Leona Gordon, 35, of Medford, were also arrested. Fassino was responsible for the facility’s ventilator on the night of Rios’ death and is now facing felony charges. Gordon, who is also facing charges, was charged with watching the monitor’s alarms to ensure they were answered in a timely maner.

The negligence alleged in this case is criminal and will not be tolerated in New York nursing homes,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “Today’s indictment sends a clear message: We will arrest those who put our most vulnerable citizens in harm’s way, and in particular those who neglect or deny life-saving medical treatment to patients. We must and will do everything in our power to protect our nursing home residents from abuse.”

Schneiderman filed a civil lawsuit against the nursing home owners earlier this year, alleging that they committed corportate looting and fraud while denying quality care to residents. The release reads: “the civil complaint details how Medford’s owners lined their pockets with millions in public Medicaid funds while turning a blind eye to persistent neglect of residents by senior management and staff. Since opening Medford in 2003, the owners systematically looted the facility by paying themselves at least $60 million, representing 22 percent of the Medicaid funding they received in that time.”

Individuals who have knowledge of wrongdoing can file a lawsuit on behalf of the government. These individuals, known as “whistleblowers”, are protected by law from retaliatory action. If their case is successful and leads to recovered funds, they are entitled to a portion of those funds.