Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

3 nursing home workers ignored patient’s alarm, state charges

January 3, 2017

As published by Newsday on .

Two Long Island nurses and a nurse aide were arrested Wednesday in connection with the death of a patient at a Uniondale nursing home, the state attorney general’s office said.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office said registered nurses Sijimole Reji, 42, of Smithtown, and Annieamma Augustine, 57, of West Hempstead, and certified nurse aide Martine Morland, 41, of Freeport, did not respond to alarms indicating a patient’s ventilator had become disconnected.

The 81-year-old patient at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale used a wheelchair and required a mechanical ventilator to breathe. On Dec. 20, 2015, prosecutors said, the patient’s machine became disconnected, triggering an audible alarm that facility employees are required to immediately respond to.

Prosecutors said Reji, Augustine and Morland heard the alarm but failed to respond for nine minutes. The patient was found unresponsive and taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where she died the following day.

All three staffers, who no longer are employed at the facility, were charged with first-degree endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person or an incompetent or physically disabled person, a felony, and willful violation of health laws, a misdemeanor.

Reji, Augustine and Morland were arraigned Wednesday in Nassau County First District Court before Judge James M. Darcy. They pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance.

Attempts to reach all three defendants were unsuccessful Wednesday. A man who answered the phone at the facility Wednesday night said no one was available to comment on the charges.

Michael Franzese, a Mineola attorney representing Reji, said Thursday his client did not hear the alarm and is innocent of the charges.

“These nurses have many responsibilities besides taking care of patients and that creates situations beyond their control,” he said. “There’s always more to the story than just the allegation.”

Attorney James Toner, also of Mineola, said his client, Moreland, is “100 percent innocent.”

“We have vigorously contested these charges,” he said.

An attorney for Augustine did not respond to requests for comment. According to online court records, all three are due back in court on Feb. 3.

The case is similar to a 2012 nursing home fatality in which 10 workers at Medford Multicare Center for Living were arrested and charged in connection with the death of patient Aurelia Rios, 72, of Central Islip.

Rios died at the nursing home on Oct. 26, 2012. She was a patient in the ventilator unit, where her alarm had gone unnoticed, records show.

The nursing home pleaded guilty and was fined, and eight defendants were convicted and spent brief terms in jail. The home’s owners were later accused of looting the facility of millions in federal funding and agreed to pay $28 million to settle the case.