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Nursing Home Aides Who Failed to Respond to Hours of Medical Distress Alarms Sentenced to Three Years Probation in Resident's Death

Dec 10, 2015

Three nurse's aides at a Long Island, New York nursing home who failed to respond to alarms notifying them that of a resident's medical distress have been sentenced to three years' probation in the woman's death.

Patricia DiGiovanni, 64, of Port Jefferson Station, Christina Corelli, 35, of East Patchogue, and Leona Gordon, 36, of Medford, all worked at Medford Multicare Center for Living and were involved in the care of resident Aurelia Rios on October 26, 2012, the day she died, Newsday reports.

In the plea agreements reached with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office DiGiovanni and Corelli each pleaded guilty to one count of willful violation of public health laws and Gordon pleaded guilty to one count of endangering the welfare of an incapacitated or disabled person. While they are on probation, the women may not hold jobs that require them to care for incapacitated individuals, Newsday reports. DiGiovanni must also perform 840 hours of community service. The newspaper said none of the women apologized to Rios's family and none of them addressed state Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins before he imposed their sentences.

Six other employees of Medford Multicare Center and the facility have entered guilty pleas or were convicted at trial in Rios' death. Attorney General Schneiderman said, "The neglect shown by these defendants will not be tolerated in New York nursing homes."

Rios had been admitted to Medford Multicare Center's short-term rehabilitation unit in September 2012 to be weaned off the ventilator. Prosecutors said she depended on a ventilator to help her breathe when she was lying down. On the night of Rios's death, a respiratory therapist forgot to attach Rios to the ventilator after she was in bed and other staff members did not notice the mistake, according to Newsday. Other safety measures were ignored by the staff and Rios died several hours later.

On that night, DiGiovanni's job was to sit in Rios' room, monitor her while she slept, and call for help if needed. When DiGiovanni took her break, Corelli relieved her. Gordon was at the nurse's station where her duty was to watch two computer monitors for red blinking lights that indicated a resident on the 40-bed unit needed help.

Prosecutors said that from 1:40 a.m. to 3:36 a.m. audible and visual notifications were sent continuously to staff member's pagers and to monitors throughout the unit staff that Rios's pulse rate and the oxygen level were low or nonexistent. Gordon notified nursing staff about the alarms one time, but did nothing more despite the face that no one responded and the alarms continued to sound.

Prosecutors said staff members initially attempted to hide the circumstances of Rios's death, claiming the death was due to a heart attack, Newsday reports. In November 2012, a whistleblower alerted state health authorities to the suspicious death and an investigation was launched. Eventually, the matter was referred to the attorney general's office.

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