BUFFALO, NY - Funeral services were held Thursday for a woman who died after being severely beaten by a fellow patient in a Buffalo Nursing home.
Her death has renewed questions regarding patient safety inside the facility where she resided, and others in Western New York.
Ruth Murray, 82, lived in a dementia unit at the Emerald South nursing home.
Last Friday, according to her family and police, she wandered into the room of a male patient with dementia, who then attacked her.
According to the attorney retained by the family, Murray suffered a broken neck, several broken ribs, a broken nose, facial fractures and a collapsed lung as a result of the attack, and died on Monday at Erie County Medical Center.
"I think this is definitely an incident that could have, and should have been avoided, said Michael Scinta of the Brown Chiari law firm, who confirmed he is preparing a lawsuit on the family’s behalf.
"The patient involved in the attack had a known history of violence against others and if the facility had that type of notice they obviously need to put in place protections for other residents of the facility, which obviously didn’t happen here,” Scinta said.
On its scale of one to five, The Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
gave Emerald South an overall rating of one for patient care, its lowest possible score.
Moreover, records compiled by The NY State Department of Health, is now investigating the incident, show the number complaints against the facility over the last four years, as well as the number of citations issued, were about four times the average for nursing homes in the state.
"Our members have been raising red flags all along,” said Todd Hobler, Vice President of SEIU Local 1199, the union representing health care workers at Emerald South.
Less than one month ago, employees staged an informational picket outside of Emerald South on Delaware Avenue near West Ferry Street, where they warned that low staffing levels were impacting the quality of care and safety of patients, as well as the safety of employees.
“It is less likely that an incident like this would have happened if they had adequate staffing. The owner has not done anything about that, and now we have this tragedy," Hobler said.
After meeting with workers, four Western New York state legislators recently signed a letter to the State Health Commissioner regarding staffing levels which they agreed were inadequate.
“If any good can come out of an awful situation like this, it may be that people are finally paying attention to what's happening in these nursing homes,” said Hobler. “We're hopeful that it will bring about some change, because it is needed," he said.