Oct 5, 2018

Short-staffing = Endangering the Welfare of a Vulnerable Adult

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The Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reported that the former owner and a manager of Focus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center nursing home pleaded guilty to endangering charges, which stemmed from a state probe into neglectful treatment of the facility’s 200-plus elderly residents.  Joseph Zupnik, and Focus’ managerial employee Daniel Herman were accused of failing to provide enough staff and supervision to ensure residents at the nursing home were adequately cared for during a two-year period ending Nov. 29, 2016, according to New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office.

A plea agreement had both men plead to misdemeanor counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person. Sentencing will be held Oct. 10.  Zupnik and Herman, and their corporate entity, CCRN Operator, also entered into an agreement to repay the New York state Medicaid program $1 million for restitution to resolve civil claims against them.

Prosecutors said that, upon taking ownership and control of the home’s operations in October 2014, Zupnik, Herman and the corporate entity cut payroll, staffing, and other necessary services and supplies needed to provide safe and adequate care to more than 200 individual residents at Focus Otsego through late November 2016.  Zupnik and Herman prohibited administrators and directors of nursing at the facility from assigning adequate staff to each shift, court documents said.

Court documents said the defendants, “while under a duty to provide care, did fail to provide timely, consistent, safe, adequate and appropriate services, treatment, and care to the residents of Focus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at Otsego, and willfully failed to provide sufficent staff to ensure such care.”  As a result, there were not enough workers to provide adequate care and services to residents. There was also insufficient supervision to ensure the nursing staff was providing adequate care.

The original criminal charges were filed May 24 in Otsego Town Court: felony counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, misdemeanor counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, and misdemeanor counts of willful violation of health laws.

Specific alleged neglect of two elderly residents was noted by the AG’s office in bringing the charges:

  • Prosecutors said a 91-year-old resident was found by staff on the floor by his bed at 1:12 a.m. on June 18, 2015, and over the course of the next 12 to 14 hours, his condition deteriorated before he was taken to the hospital emergency room with a subdural hematoma. The resident died at the hospital several days later; prosecutors allege Focus failed to complete a required “fall assessment” of the resident.
  • Around 1 p.m. on May 28, 2016, prosecutors said, a 94-year-old resident was placed in a common living room reclining chair at Focus and not moved from the recliner until about 6:30 a.m. on May 30, 2016 — about 41 hours later. Prosecutors said the resident was neglected by certified nursing aides during that time, and that included not being provided food or drink or other required assistance with daily living activities. Four Focus employees were previously charged and convicted in that incident, although further details of those cases were not immediately available Tuesday.
 Senior licensed professional managers of the Focus facility had repeatedly requested more staff to be scheduled and warned that low wages and “onerous working conditions” were keeping them from filling staff vacancies, the AG’s office said.

Focus administrators and directors of nursing also repeatedly communicated to the defendants that staffing levels were low and at times unsafe, below critical levels, according to prosecutors.

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Staffing · Trial themes

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