Long Island Nursing Home Aides Who Ignored Medical Distress Alarms Sentenced to Three Years Probation in Death of Resident

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Three nurse’s aides at a Long Island, New York nursing home who ignored alarms notifying them that a resident was in 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, worked at Medford Multicare Center for Living and were responsible for the care of resident Aurelia Rios on October 26, 2012, the day she died, Newsday reports.

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. While they are on 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 newspaper said the women did not apologize to Rios’s family and they declined to address state Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins before he imposed sentences.

In addition to the three aides, six other employees and the nursing home 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 was admitted to the Medford facility’s short-term rehabilitation unit in September 2012 to help wean her off a ventilator. Prosecutors said she depended on a ventilator to help her breathe when she was lying down. On the night of Rios’s death, the respiratory therapist forgot to attach the ventilator after Rios was in bed and no one noticed the mistake, according to Newsday. Other safety measures were ignored by the staff and Rios died several hours later.

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

Prosecutors 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’s pulse rate and the oxygen level in her blood were low or nonexistent. Gordon said she notified the nursing staff once, but then she did nothing more even though no one responded and the alarms continued to sound.

According to prosecutors, staff members attempted to cover up the circumstances surrounding Rios’s death, claiming the death was due to a heart attack, Newsday reports. State health regulators launched an investigation after a whistleblower notified them of the suspicious death. The matter was eventually referred to the attorney general’s office.