The operators of four nursing homes in New York misused more than $83 million in government funds and neglected residents, including some who were malnourished or were left to sit for hours in their own urine and feces, state Attorney General Letitia James said in a lawsuit Wednesday.
The lawsuit filed in Manhattan accuses owners and operators of Centers Health Care of using Medicaid and Medicare funds to enrich themselves, their relatives and associates instead of for the care of the residents. James claims understaffing at the homes contributed to neglect.
"Residents were left alone and on their own, often unaided and unsupervised, leading to dangerous falls and broken bones. Residents lived in squalor, surrounded by neglected food trays, vermin and the smell of human waste," James said at a news conference held with residents’ relatives.
The company denied the allegations.
"Centers Health Care prides itself on its commitment to patient care. Centers denies the New York Attorney General’s allegations wholeheartedly and attempted to resolve this matter out of court. We will fight these spurious claims with the facts on our side," spokesperson Jeff Jacomowitz said in an emailed statement.
New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a ceremony on June 6, 2022, in New York. James filed a lawsuit on June 28, 2023, claiming operators of four nursing homes in New York misused over $83 million in government funds. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
The four homes in the lawsuit are Beth Abraham Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in the Bronx, the Holliswood Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Queens, the Martine Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Westchester County and the Buffalo Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing.
The suit claims residents' meals were late, clothes were stolen and call bells were unanswered. One resident with severe bed sores developed sepsis, was hospitalized and died. Another resident did not have her colostomy bag attached. Others suffered from dehydration.
"My uncle was found sitting in a filthy room, unbathed and only wearing an adult diaper. This wasn't my uncle. George was a veteran. He was an artist." said Cynthia Vega, recalling her late Uncle George's stay at Holliswood.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the homes failed to control its spread. More than 400 residents across the four homes died in 2020, according to James.
The lawsuit names Centers Health Care co-owners Kenneth Rozenberg and Daryl Hagler and a series of businesses owned by them, family members or business associates.
James seeks, among other things, a return of the money and a ban on new admissions until staffing is increased at the homes.