Parker Waichman LLP is investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who were abused or neglected in care facilities and who were injured or died as a result of this alleged neglect and abuse.
Man’s Feeding Tube Covered in Maggots, Twice
A New York State lawmaker—Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica, New York—is calling for a federal investigation into New York State’s care of the disabled after an Associated Press (AP) story revealed a case in which a man was infested with maggots in a state-run group home. Assemblyman Brindisi told the AP that he has asked the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to probe the group home, as well as other state-regulated facilities for the disabled that have also been associated with abuse and neglect allegations.
“It’s clear from seeing this that New York State cannot be relied on to police itself,” said Assemblyman Brindisi, who is also running for Congress. “When you have thousands of cases (of abuse and neglect) happening across the state—this being one of the most egregious—we must give some reassurance to families that their loved ones are being taken care of,” he added, according to the AP. The call for an investigation followed a just-published AP story that indicated that it is “often easier to find health and safety information for local restaurants than it is to learn about conditions at facilities serving approximately one million of the state’s most vulnerable residents.”
In this particular case, a man, 41, was found to have maggot crawling around his breathing tube on two occasions. He was residing in a Rome, New York state-owned and -operated small group home after suffering severe brain trauma due to a 1991 car crash that left him unable to last walk, talk, or feed himself, according to the AP. The man is also unable to breathe without a ventilator.
The two maggot infestations of larval flies in his throat over successive days in the summer of 2016 led to repeated trips to an emergency room and a state investigation that revealed days of neglect by caretakers. The AP described “a slimy, wriggling clump” that “was growing around the hole in his throat near his breathing tube. Nurses who looked closer discovered the maggots, a discovery that is just about unheard of in current American health care.
A state investigation concluded that the infestation was due to neglect and that caregivers failed to appropriately clean the site of Wenger’s breathing tube. No caregivers were disciplined and the report was kept confidential. For its part, according to the AP, the agency in charge of the facility indicated that they are conducting increased training and the man is receiving care in a different facility.
The AP obtained a copy of the report and discovered that the state of New York is not the only state that makes it difficult for the public to access records concerning allegations of abuse and neglect in state-regulated facilities for the disabled. In New York, the Justice Center oversees case investigation over the care of some one million New Yorkers.
Assemblyman Brindisi said that he was looking for details about this case earlier in 2017 after the man’s father contacted the assemblyman about the care his son was receiving. He said that officials at the Justice Center told him the case was closed and that the man’s father was satisfied with the results, which was not the case. “There has to be more transparency by the Justice Center,” the assemblyman said. When asked about Assemblyman Brindisi’s comments, Justice Center spokesman William Reynolds said the agency regularly works with federal officials “and will continue to do so as needed,” according to the AP. Meanwhile, the Justice Center conducted what it described as an “exhaustive” review of the incident but was unable to assign responsibility to any specific staff members.
Maggots are usually tied with filth, since flies deposit their eggs on dead or decaying tissue; however, New York’s investigation did not find evidence that the infestation was caused by unsanitary conditions in the eight-resident group “ Individual Residential Alternative-3, or IRA-3” home. The author of the investigative report wrote that, perhaps, since the man was taken outside on a regular basis for fresh air, the maggots might have been laid on him by flies lured by manure that was spread on a vegetable farm across the street from the facility. The owner of the farm said he does not use manure, according to the AP.
The man’s father is considering a lawsuit and told the AP that he had considered sending his son back to IRA-3 because of the short distance to his home; however, resident officials rejected that option saying that the man’s son needs and increased level of care. “Now that he’s got maggots they want him out,” the father said. “He’s a side of beef that no one wants.”
In this case, state investigators discovered that the 41-year-old man’s maggot infestations were due to several days of neglect by caretakers who were in charge of keeping the tracheostomy clean. “If someone is keeping everything wiped clean, it shouldn’t happen,” said Dr. Karl Steinberg, a San Diego-area physician who has served as medical director for hospices and nursing homes, wrote the AP.
Abuse and Neglect Complaints
“If a complaint is substantiated, there should be a pretty detailed report … but you cannot get that information,” said Robyn Grant, director of public policy at Washington-based advocacy group, the National Consumer Voice For Quality Long-Term Care. In New York, and most other states, information about abuse and neglect investigations in state-regulated institutions for disabled, addicted, and mentally ill individuals are generally never publicized, even if names have been redacted, according to the AP. Many states do provide vast information concerning hospitals and nursing homes, according to Ms. Grant; however, most are fairly quiet concerning data on care of the disabled in state-regulated facilities. Ms. Grant pointed out that no consistent disclosure rules exist and, many states reports are “redacted to a ridiculous point, to a point where the sentences don’t make any sense.”
New York has one of the nation’s largest disabled-care systems; abuse and neglect probes are overseen by the state’s Justice Center for the Protection of People With Special Needs. Spokesman William Reynolds said that the Justice Center is unable to release detailed information on its cases, even when identifying material is removed, due to state and federal rules concerning medical and personnel privacy, as well as law enforcement investigations, the AP reported.
Meanwhile, advocates for the disabled and some lawmakers say the Justice Center is hiding too much information and they believe this is being done to either protect Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration from horrendous headlines or to protect the flow of billions of dollars from Medicaid to a widespread system that is responsible for approximately one million disabled, addicted, and mentally ill individuals. “What the hell are they hiding?” asked Harvey Weisenberg, a former state lawmaker whose son who is disabled. “They won’t tell the public, or anybody for that matter, what they’re doing,” he added, the AP reported.
Legal Help for Victims of Resident Facility Abuse and Neglect
If you or someone you know sustained an injury of died due to neglect or abuse at a residential facility, you may have valuable legal rights. For a free, no obligation lawsuit evaluation with one of the experienced resident facility lawyers at Parker Waichman LLP, please fill out our online form, or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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