Death at Emerald South raises staffing concerns

Posted at 6:20 PM, Sep 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-03 13:38:38-04

A photo obtained by 7 Eyewitness News shows 83-year-old Ruth Murray lying in a hospital bed severely beaten with black and blue marks across her face. We’re choosing not to show the photo because of its graphic nature.

According to the family's attorney, Ralph Lorigo, Murray walked into another patient's room at the Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Delaware Avenue last Friday when the male patient, who also suffers from dementia, severely beat her.

Lorigo believes the beating is a direct result of under staffing. “You need to be properly staffed. If you're not properly staffed, than the staff needs to know the history of the people that are in the home.”

Union representatives said staffing has been an issue ever since Benjamin Landa took over ownership in 2012. “There’s huge turnovers and we've been saying over and over again that there's going to be a tragedy here if something is not done and here we are,” said 1199 SEIU Vice President Todd Hobler.

It's unclear how many staff members have been cut under the new management. Hobler said Landa and state health officials won't provide that information.

Hobler also said they took staffing concerns to an Emerald South administrator during a labor management meeting back on July 19th. “They told us they can't afford to staff the building the way we want to. They have like three people on for 37 patients on the dementia floor and sometimes two people on that unit. You can't take care of those people. You can't watch them. You can't care for them,” said 1199 SEIU rep Jenny Applewhite.

Lorigo said Murray’s death proves as much and he’s concerned Emerald South had been negligent in the past. Lorigo said she had been hospitalized twice before in recent months. Both times the family was told the injuries happened during a fall. Now, the family is questioning whether that’s true.

“It's not a terribly unusual thing that someone might fall in a nursing home someone with dementia in that type of a unit,” Lorigo said. “But when you see the horrific situation that's according today, what happened to her under these circumstances and there's nobody there to stop it. Something as horrific as this couldn't have been done. It's not a 5-second situation,” he added.