7 INVESTIGATES: Why Did a Man Go Missing From Niagara Rehab?

Found Safe at Hospital; Does Not Want to Go Back
Posted at 6:53 PM, Nov 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-23 18:55:29-05

Sixty-four-year-old David Willis is resting at Buffalo General Hospital tonight after walking out of the Niagara Rehab nursing home yesterday afternoon.

Falls police tell 7 Eyewitness News that Niagara Rehab didn't report him missing until nearly seven-hours after surveillance video showed him walking out. 

The incident involving Willis happened on the same day the State Health Department returned to Niagara Rehab as part of its investigation into the death of a resident over the weekend.

This is the same nursing home that was at the center of a two-month 7 Eyewitness News investigation which aired just a week ago.

Monday, we brought you the story of Jerry Carroll, who died Sunday. Family members say he was neglected. They say he asked multiple times to be taken to the hospital before he died.

Then on Tuesday, the staff at Niagara Rehab called police at 7 p.m. to report that resident Dave Willis missing. Surveillance video shows he actually left the home seven hours earlier.

Willis talked to 7 Eyewitness News on Wednesday. He said he took a cab to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center just a few blocks away.

He says he does not want to go back to Niagara Rehab. He said, "It's one thing to pick on someone who's healthy. But when you're sick and can't defend yourself..."

Since our investigation aired a week ago, Niagara Rehab has hired a public relations firm to handle our questions. Niagara Rehab continues to deny our request for an on-camera interview but spokesman Kevin Keenan released this statement:

“In response to the numerous items that have been reported in the news recently involving Niagara Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, it is important for us to remind everyone that, as a health care facility, we are bound by specific laws and regulations protecting the privacy, not to mention the dignity, of our valued residents. This value is something we will not compromise, while others, in an attempt to sensationalize, will do. It is our responsibility to maintain a level of professionalism, while withholding the urge to respond to allegations without a full review.
It is also our hope that anyone reporting will hold themselves to these same professional standards and fully investigate claims, including diagnosis and history, prior to making public statements in a misguided attempt at ratings.”

To be clear, this all started with a plea for help from patients inside the home. 7 Eyewitness News looked into those claims, then pored over state inspection records for this facility, which holds the federal government’s lowest rating (one-star).

Since our initial report aired a week ago, more than two dozen people have reached out to us with their own stories.

Those people have asked us to keep digging for answers, and that is what we will continue to do. 

Are you a current or former worker of Niagara Rehab or another nursing home? Do you know of a nursing home whose conditions need to be investigated? Email Charlie Specht at Charlie.Specht@wkbw.com.