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Source: US State of New York

Attorney General James Announces $500,000 Settlement with Kaleida Health Following Investigation of Infant’s Death  

Agreement Requires Kaleida Health’s Implementation of Reforms,
Additional Staffing, Supervision, and Compliance Measures
 

BUFFALO – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced a settlement with Kaleida Health, the largest not-for-profit health care provider in Western New York, to resolve an investigation into the death of a 16-month-old pediatric resident in 2015, as well as the previous arrests of 17 caregivers in 2014, who were subsequently convicted of neglect of a resident with Huntington’s disease at the HighPointe on Michigan Health Care Facility in Buffalo.

“Keeping New Yorkers safe is one of my top priorities,” said Attorney General James. “Kaleida Health put residents of HighPointe at risk, which is why we fought for corrective actions and restitution. My office will closely monitor compliance with the agreement to ensure the future safety of residents.”

Kaleida agreed to pay $500,000 in restitution and damages as well as to increase staffing and supervision in the facility, and to continue the implementation of policy changes to improve its operation of HighPointe. Following the infant’s death and in response to the investigation, Kaleida cooperated with the Office of the Attorney General’s investigation and expended more than $8 million for the hiring of increased direct care and supervisory staff, a physician, and improvements to systems and equipment and to policies and procedures.

The agreement has resulted in enhanced staffing and services of the facility’s pediatric wing. Reforms implemented as a result of the Attorney General’s investigation include:

  • Hiring of a new medical director of the pediatric unit and mandating a minimum number of pediatric care staff on the floor at all times;
  • Hiring 40 additional full-time facility care staff, including nurses, nurse aides, and therapists;
  • Making capital improvements to the facility and system, including to the pager/alarm system;
  • Instituting an electronic medical record keeping system;
  • Providing extended training to all care professionals; and
  • Requiring the creation of a corporate compliance officer position solely responsible for the oversight of HighPointe.

The reforms are required to be continued for a minimum of 30 months, even in the event of the sale or transfer of the facility to new ownership. The reforms have improved the quality of resident care and are expected to continue to benefit the current and future residents of HighPointe. It is the only skilled nursing facility offering a specialized pediatric unit within a 75-mile radius of Buffalo, and the only facility offering such pediatric care within a 269-mile radius of Buffalo.

The agreement sets forth the Attorney General’s findings that Kaleida provided insufficient supervision and oversight of the management and staff at HighPointe, a 300-bed facility located in downtown Buffalo, and the determination that the death of the 16-month-old pediatric resident was the result of the resident being left unattended while inappropriately being tube-fed in a high chair that was not required by the infant’s care plan. During that time, the infant suffocated. The investigation revealed that at the time of death, the infant could not hold his head up without artificial support and did not have the ability to clear his throat or call for help. Despite prior documented episodes of airway obstruction and vomiting while feeding, the resident’s care plan had not been adjusted to require nursing staff to be present and observe the resident during gastric tube feeding. Instead, the facility relied upon a pager/alarm system to remotely monitor his vital signs. However, at the time of the infant’s death, the system had not been properly adjusted by staff, there were no policies or procedures in place to correctly operate and rely on the monitoring system, and the nursing staff was not properly trained to use the system.

The Attorney General’s investigation also concluded that HighPointe management failed to properly investigate the resident’s death and failed to report the death in a timely manner to the New York State Department of Health, as required by law.

Attorney General James reminds New Yorkers that the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) in the Office of the Attorney General has a toll-free hotline and online portal for reporting suspected abuse and neglect of nursing home residents or fraud by Medicaid providers. While complaints can be made anonymously, it assists MFCU investigations when the Office receives specific allegations involving residents’ names; dates and types of alleged abuse and/or neglect; names of facility employees involved or having notice of the situation; and whether the facility had observed or its owners and/or management had been notified of allegations of abuse, neglect, or lack of sufficient staffing and/or Registered Nurse or Administrator supervision of staff.

New Yorkers can report suspected nursing home abuse and neglect, or Medicaid fraud to the Attorney General’s toll-free Fraud Hotline, at (800) 771-7755 or online.

The Office of the Attorney General wishes to thank the New York State Department of Health for its assistance in this investigation. The investigation by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit was conducted by Investigator Janice Boyd, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator James Zablonski; Auditor-Investigator Sean McShea, under the supervision of Regional Chief Auditor Frank Zeffiro; and Medical Analyst Jennifer Cronkhite. William Falk is MFCU’s Deputy Chief Investigator-Upstate.

The case is being handled by Thomas N. Schleif, Special Assistant Attorney General in the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, with assistance provided by Special Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Silverman, under the supervision of Director Amy Held and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

 

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