NYS A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrests Of 4 Aides Who Allegedly Took Photos And Videos Of Nursing Home Residents
September 15, 2016 – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that, in two distinct cases, four former nursing home aides who were paid to provide care to elderly residents and residents with substantial disabilities, were arrested and arraigned on September 13 before Oswego City Court Judge James Metcalf. All four defendants were charged with felonies and misdemeanors relating to allegedly taking still and video digital images of residents in undignified poses at two nursing homes in Oswego.
“Nursing home residents and their families deserve the peace of mind of knowing that their loved ones will be protected and respected by their caregivers. To record images of residents for one’s own amusement is a blatant violation of trust and privacy in the very place these residents call home,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will keep working to prosecute the abuse and neglect of nursing home residents, and punish those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”
Mathew Reynolds and Angel Rood were charged with counts of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree, a Class E felony, as well as two counts of Willful Violation of the Public Health Law, an unclassified misdemeanor. While they were employed as aides at Pontiac Nursing Home in Oswego, Reynolds and Rood allegedly used an iPhone to take demeaning photographs of a resident in undignified positions. Several of the pictures allegedly depict the defendants lying in bed with a resident and touching the resident in a taunting and abusive manner.
Austin Powell and Brittany Bolster were charged with counts of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree, a Class E felony, and two counts of Willful Violation of the Public Health Law, an unclassified misdemeanor. Both were working as aides at St. Lukes Health Services in Oswego, New York, when they allegedly filmed a video of themselves verbally and physically tormenting a resident. A video taken by defendant Powell allegedly shows him, together with co-defendant Bolster, repeatedly touching a resident’s nose and taunting her, causing her to become severely agitated and upset at a time when the defendants were required to provide care to her. In addition to the emotional trauma the resident allegedly suffered as a result of the defendants’ conduct, in the resident’s efforts to force the defendants to stop the abuse, the resident repeatedly lashed out in a violent manner, which was likely to cause her physical harm.
Obviously, many of my readers will be thinking about HIPAA and privacy. So note this statement in the press release:
Both facilities have strict policies forbidding the use of cell phones by staffers and the creation of either still or video images of nursing home residents.
Having policies is an important element, but policies alone will not be sufficient. How do you monitor/audit for compliance with this policy?
And yes, there are other issues that are, on many levels, even more disturbing than the privacy breach aspect, but still, this strikes me as something that should be reported to HHS, too.
The defendants were released on their own recognizance and the cases are next on for appearances on October 19.
Since early 2013 across the State, the Attorney General has prosecuted three cases that have addressed abuse and neglect of vulnerable residents of nursing homes by facility employees who, with callousness and insensitivity, violated the law by using various means to record digital images and videos in humiliating poses or conditions, some of which also involved the use of social media such as Facebook and SnapChat to post such images.
The charges against the defendants are accusations only, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. References to other cases are for reference and information only.
This case was investigated by Investigator Keith Hall of the Syracuse Regional Office of the Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The matter is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Berry. The Regional Director is Ralph D. Tortora, III. Catherine Wagner is the Upstate Chief of Criminal Investigations. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is led by Director Amy Held and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul Mahoney. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.
Note: Well, okay, I’m not sure where Pontiac Nursing Home homes is on privacy and HIPAA issues. Check out this Facebook page and see if you have the same questions I do about all the names and pictures. But the nursing home also has other criticisms of it, including failure to do background checks