The former Kaleida Health employees accused of neglecting a nursing home patient were arraigned in Buffalo City Court Friday.
Seventeen workers at Highpointe on Michigan Health Care Facility, eight nurses and nine nursing assistants, were fired following a state investigation. Special Assistant Attorney General Thomas Schleif says all of the individuals are facing various counts of willful violation of health law, endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, and falsifying business records.
Schlief says the nurses and certified nurse’s aides claimed to have filled out medication and care administration forms, while video surveillance shows the contrary. The AG's office says they instead routinely ignored their duties regarding the resident and his documented needs.
"The charges are basically against each individual for various times during the shifts, 24 hours a day during the time that the camer was operational," Schlief said following Friday's court proceeding.
The state claims on a number of occasions during the surveillance period, nurses failed to dispense pain medication and check on the resident. Aides neglected to check on the resident, failed to give him liquids and failed to perform incontinent care. The nurses and aides then allegedly falsified documents in an effort to conceal their neglect.
The victim, identified in court papers as "LM," was a 56-year-old resident who suffered from Huntington’s chorea, a neurological disease that left him completely non-ambulatory and bedridden. The AG's office says he was totally dependent on the nursing staff of Highpointe for his care.
“Nursing home residents are among our state’s most vulnerable citizens, and the perpetual neglect in this case is shameful,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said, in a statement. “The charges filed send the message that my office will not tolerate anyone being neglected by those responsible for his or her care. We will use every tool in our arsenal, including hidden cameras, to ensure that nursing home residents receive the care they need and the respect they deserve.”
Schleif says two of the charges are felonies which carry a maximum prison term of four years. The health law violation is a misdemeanor with a maximum one year sentence plus a fine.
The 17 employees 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; and Hazell Clegatt, 43, CNA, Buffalo.
The workers are due back in court at separate times in the coming weeks.