A nursing home death in Washington County, N.Y. led to a state Supreme Court jury slapping county officials with a $300,000 fine and the state comptroller's office finding the state Department of Health (NYSDOH) negligent in investigating complaints against nursing homes, according to the North County Gazette.
The $300,000 will be awarded to the family of a woman who died from a fall off a toilet at the county-owned Pleasant Valley Adult Home in Argyle, N.Y. Esther Nolan, 75, died at Pleasant Valley in March 2003. The attorney representing Nolan's family argued that the death was caused by inadequate staffing and improper installation of the toilet seat.
A state comptroller's audit revealed the NYSDOH was late in investigating 20 percent of complaints against nursing homes. From April 2005 to September 2006, auditors found 1,186 of 6,700 investigations by DOH were tardy.
"When a complaint is made about a nursing home, DOH has to act quickly," comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. "The department is doing its part to investigate very serious complaints in a timely manner. But it needs to get to other complaints faster. Failing to respond on time could put elderly and dependent New Yorkers at risk".
The state audit also found the slow response to these complaints was due to staff deployment at NYSDOH. In addition, the audit found many complaints were not closed by NYSDOH within the state-mandated 180 days, causing the state to miss financial reimbursement from the federal government.