Investigation Finds New York Caregivers for Mentally Disabled Rarely Lose Their Jobs, Even in Cases of Wrongdoing

A study conducted by the Poughkeepsie Journal has found that the state of New York has only succeeded twice in twenty attempts since 2007 to fire employees at local state-run facilities that care for the developmentally disabled. The Journal reviewed 1,900 pages of documents relating to disciplinary proceedings for 98 group homes and 6 institutions throughout the state. It found that only two percent of disciplinary actions since 2007, eight out of 341, resulted in firing, even in cases involving serious allegations of neglect or abuse.

Examples from the study of people who kept their jobs included a female staffer who held a patient by the hair and, while jabbing the patient in the face and yelling obscenities, forced the patient to drink an unknown liquid. Another case involved an aide who held a patient down on the ground by kneeling on the patient’s back and grabbing at the patient’s face, and who then tried to coerce a coworker into altering the report. That worker faced an assault charge in criminal court.

Not all workers involved in these cases actually remained at their facilities. The study found that many accepted resignation or unpaid suspensions, which keeps them on the payroll and has far less public impact than outright termination. It also allows for the possibility that individuals with disciplinary history, which might include abuse and neglect, may be able to obtain employment in homes for the developmentally disabled again in the future.

This situation in New York state underscores the importance of remaining educated about nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other group care facilities to which you might entrust a loved one. These facilities clearly have an obligation to provide diligent and competent care, since they provide nearly all the daily needs of the residents.

In Maryland, facilities caring for people with developmental disabilities, which may include autism or Down syndrome, are regulated by the Developmental Disabilities Administration. It is part of the Office of Health Care Quality in the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. Regulatory compliance is handled by the Developmental Disabilities Unit, which has established a system for complaints regarding misconduct in regulated facilities. Facilities providing full-time care to people with developmental disabilities must be licensed by the state, and reports of abuse, neglect, or misconduct certainly factor into licensing decisions.

No one seems to have done a comprehensive study of disciplinary actions in Maryland homes similar to the one done in Poughkeepsie. It is therefore not known exactly how effective Maryland’s disciplinary system is at removing problem employees after allegations of abuse and neglect. Reports of disciplinary actions are also difficult to review, as so much of the contents fall under various privacy laws.

Consumers must therefore be cautious and diligent in researching homes, considering any available information about licensing and disciplinary history. Facilities that employ people with histories of abuse or neglect also have a duty to monitor those employees to safeguard the patients, and any such information can help in establishing a facility’s negligence should abuse or neglect occur.

The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen represent people who have been injured due to abuse or neglect by staff members. Contact the firm today for a free and confidential consultation.

Web Resources:

Developmental Disabilities Unit homepage, Office of Health Care Quality, Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

More Blog Posts:

Indictments Issued in Two Separate Maryland Nursing Home Assault Cases, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, October 4, 2011
Nursing Home Aides Found Guilty of Elder Abuse by Engaging in Prank with Dementia Residents, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, August 18, 2011
Florida Nursing Homes Investigated for Severe Abuse and Negligence, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, June 3, 2011

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