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Nursing home fined $10,000 in beating death of woman

The Delaware Avenue nursing home where an 82-year-old woman suffered fatal injuries in a beating last year has been fined $10,000 by the New York State Health Department.

Ruth Murray was a resident of Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1175 Delaware Ave. near West Ferry Street, in Buffalo. On the morning of Aug. 26, she mistakenly wandered into a man’s room in the dementia unit, where she also lived, and the attack occurred.

Inspectors said she wandered unsupervised into the room, and the man reacted violently believing a man was breaking into his house. Murray suffered a broken neck, several broken ribs, a broken nose, facial fractures and a collapsed lung in the attack. She died three days later in Erie County Medical Center.

An inspection based on a complaint cited Emerald South for not ensuring that each resident receives adequate supervision to prevent accidents. That was one of four deficiencies that led to the fine.

The state also said there was no documented evidence that an admission agreement was signed by the male resident or a responsible party, and the nursing home should have notified authorities within 24 hours of the incident and did not. The review also cited the facility for not notifying the family or legal representative of the male resident in a timely manner of his transfer out of the nursing home for evaluation at ECMC's Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program.

Emerald South submitted a plan of correction acceptable to the state to address the shortcomings.

"The Department required the facility to submit a revised plan of correction for review and approval. Based the seriousness of this matter, the department fined Emerald South $10,000 and conducted a post-survey visit at Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation to make sure all of the corrections were made," according to a statement from the Health Department.

The fine is the maximum that can be assessed for a violation that directly results in serious patient harm.

Prosecutors decided not to charge the 84-year-old man. An official in the Erie County district attorney's office told The Buffalo News in October that it was determined that the assailant lacked the mental capacity both to participate in a trial and to form criminal intent in the incident.

Richard Sullivan, an attorney with the Harris Beach law firm who has represented Emerald South, did not return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday.

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