Adriana Neagoe died after two falls at a Queens nursing home.
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News 4 Investigates: Nursing Home Death
Anybody who has struggled to do the right thing for aging loved ones will feel this family's pain. Adriana Neagoe's relatives didn't file any official complaints for months until the grieving family got one last bill for services they believe accelerated her passing.
A Queens nursing home is facing a State investigation, a lawsuit filed a by dead former resident's next of kin, and so far unanswered questions about how a 65-year-old resident could have dropped to the floor not once, but twice, the second time fatally.
For so many families struggling to do the right thing for aging loved ones, the decision to recommend moving to a nursing home is agonizing. Is it necessary? If so, which one? Will the staff care as much about their comfort as relatives who may have less experience tending to the illnessnes that come with advancing years?
Adriana Neagoe's family had decided on Midway Nursing Home after she fainted in front of her church and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Surgery to treat it left her paralyzed.
After her death, relatives kept their concerns private for more than a year, until the nursing home thought it would be a good idea to send a final bill, for $51,749. "The policy is clearly 'kill them and bill them,' " says family attorney Kenneth M. Mollins, "they negligently kill this woman. They hurt her first, then they hurt her bad enough to kill her and it did kill her the second time, and then they're billing her."
Midway Executive Director Moshe Kalter and Administrator Burt Kohn declined repeated requests for response to the family's allegations. A Midway employee did rush up to an NBCNewYork.com photographer outside the home with a clear message: "if you push me I'm going to F--- you up," he said. Told he wasn't being touched, the man retorted "I want you to know it. I will."
Threats aside, there's little mystery surrounding two incidents that a State Health Department official says were required to be reported to the State--and were not.
The retired hotel housekeeper came to Midway Nursing Home in Maspeth after she fainted outside her church leading doctors to discover a brain tumor. Neagoe's family says surgery left her able to move only one arm. So it was a surprise when she was injured in the spring of 2008 and they say nursing home staff told them she'd toppled off a bed surrounded by guard rails.
"She cannot fall because she could not move. She was paralyzed," says the victim's nephew Cristin Buiciuc. What does he say really happened? The Romanian immigrant had to be mechanically hoisted up for bathing and so bed sheets could be changed. "They drop her from like five feet. They drop her on her head. That's what she told me before she died," says Buiciuc.
State Health Department files show Midway has a record in recent years of 43 complaints and incidents for every 100 beds--almost double the statewide average.
After she hit the floor that second time, Buiciuc, who is also executor of her estate, says he was determined never to bring her back to Midway Nursing Home. It was August 8, 2008. Adriana Neagoe died six days later, still at Elmhurst General Hospital where she'd been rushed for treatment of severe head injuries, of what her family says were complications from them.
Now they've sued to reverse that huge final bill and for punitive damages, which means Midway officials might be compelled to explain what happened in their care--under oath.