In September the Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that Amy DeAngelis-Martin a licensed practical nurse was arrested on charges including Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree. DeAngelis-Martin was employed as a nurse at the Northeast Center for Special Care in the Town of Ulster, New York. She is accused of stealing oxycodone pills, an often abused painkiller, from one of her patients and replacing them with similar looking over the counter allergy pills. Replacing prescription painkillers with relatively harmless over the counter medication is a common way for medical staff to steal pills from patients.
The fifty two year old patient in question was paralyzed from the waist down due to trauma to the head and neck and was taking the medication for pain.
Nurses and other medical staff stealing or diverting prescription pain medication is a major problem in nursing homes as it can lead to patients not getting the care and pain management they need as well as potential drug interactions or complications arising from the patient taking undocumented medication. It also poses a problem in that medical staff who are abusing narcotics may not be capable of providing care to those in need. DeAngelis-Martin was charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors. She was charged with endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the first degree which is a class E felony and one count of falsifying business records in the first degree which is also a class E felony as well as one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree a class A misdemeanor and one count of petit larceny also a class A misdemeanor. If she is convicted the charges carry between one to four years in jail.
The Attorney General through his Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigates abuse and neglect by nursing and other health care facilities. Schneiderman has said that “Staff at nursing facilities are entrusted to care for those who are unable to care for themselves, including administering appropriate medication,” and that his “office will prosecute individuals that violate that trust and prey upon the vulnerable patients. The allegations in this case serve as a strong reminder of the dangerous and addictive qualities of opioid medications — and why they must be closely monitored.” Those looking into care for themselves or their loved ones should be aware of the potential for abuse and neglect and carefully research facilities.
The Northeast Center for Special Care, also known as the Northeast Center for Special Care, in Ulster County New York specializes in traumatic brain injuries and treating other patients with traumatic injuries. Information about the facilities record can be found on the website of the Department of Health, which is tasked with inspecting and taking complaints about nursing homes and care facilities, shows that the center had a slightly higher than average number of complaints. It received 59.4 complaints per 100 beds during the reporting period which lasted from October 2010 until September of 2014.
The average number of complaints per 100 beds in New York state was 35.7. Otherwise the home had only one quality of care citation given during an onsite inspection working out to well under the statewide average. The fact the care homes record is better than average in many ways only highlights how important it is for there to be oversight of nursing and care home personnel. While families and patients may do their due diligence in researching facilities this type of conduct, which DeAngelis-Martin is alleged to have been involved in, can happen even in facilities with good records. More information about the facility, and all other nursing and care homes in New York State, can be found on the Department of Health’s website which lists a number of statistics on inspections and complaints as well as standard of care metrics.