Three nurse’s aides at a Medford, New York nursing home who admitted they did not respond to alarms notifying them that a resident was in medical distress have been sentenced to three years’ probation and one was ordered to perform 840 hours of community service.
The women—Patricia DiGiovanni, 64, of Port Jefferson Station, Christina Corelli, 35, of East Patchogue, and Leona Gordon, 36, of Medford—worked at Medford Multicare Center for Living, where resident Aurelia Rios died on October 26, 2012, Newsday reports. The newspaper also reports that the women did not apologize to Ross’s family and they all declined to address state Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins before he imposed the sentences.
DiGiovanni and Corelli each pleaded guilty to one count of willful violation of public health laws. Gordon pleaded guilty to one count of endangering the welfare of an incapacitated or disabled person.The sentences were part of the plea agreements reached with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office. During their probation, the women are barred from working in jobs that require them to care for incapacitated individuals, according to Newsday. DiGiovanni was also ordered to perform 840 hours of community service.
The three women are among nine employees, and the nursing home itself, who have pleaded guilty or who were convicted at trial in Rios’ death. Attorney General Schneiderman said in a statement, “The neglect shown by these defendants will not be tolerated in New York nursing homes.”
Rios, who had a tracheotomy, was admitted to the Medford facility’s short-term rehabilitation unit in September 2012 to help wean her off the ventilator. Prosecutors said she depended on the machine to help her breathe when she was lying down. On the night of October 25, 2012, the respiratory therapist forgot to attach Rios to the ventilator after she was in bed and no one noticed the mistake, according to Newsday. A number of safety measures were ignored by the staff and Rios died several hours later.
DiGiovanni’s job on the day Rios died was to sit in her room to monitor the resident while she slept and call for help if needed. When DiGiovanni went on her break, Corelli relieved her. Gordon was at the nurse’s station; her duty was to watch two computer monitors for red blinking lights, which indicate that a residents on the 40-bed unit needed help.
Prosecutors have said audible and visual notifications were sent continuously to the staff’s pagers and to monitors throughout the unit between 1:40 a.m. to 3:36 a.m., alerting them that Rios’ pulse rate and the oxygen level in her blood were low or nonexistent.
Gordon said she notified the nursing staff one time, then did nothing more even though no one responded and the alarms continued to sound.
Prosecutors say the staff tried to cover up the circumstances surrounding Rios’ death, and initially claimed the death was due to a heart attack, Newsday reports. A whistle-blower reported the suspicious death to New York State health regulators, who launched an investigation and eventually referred the matter to Schneiderman’s office.