Calling it a deterrent against nursing home abuse, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that his office will use hidden camera technology in Western New York to expose and prosecute mistreatment of residents.
Hidden cameras have been used by the attorney general's office in four cases already, resulting in 26 convictions of nurses, nurse's aides and a nursing home owner.
Earlier this month, four nursing home workers were charged with falsifying records and endangering a resident at a Medford facility. In May, Highgate LTC Management LLC was fined $15,000 and barred from the nursing home industry because of patient neglect, following a criminal conviction at a facility in Cortland.
"This is in many ways a double crime," Cuomo said at a news conference in Buffalo.
"It's the abuse of elderly people, disabled people, people in nursing homes," he said. "And many of the facilities are paid for by taxpayers. We have taxpayer-financed abuse."
The initiative involves placing a hidden video camera in resident rooms, with the permission of families or legal representatives but without the knowledge of the nursing home. The video can be monitored in real time to stop abuse if it is occurring and used as evidence to make a case at trial.
"We've had reports [of abuse] for many years, but they are hard cases to make," Cuomo said. "This allows us to make cases we couldn't make before."
Cuomo declined to say how many nursing home patients are being monitored in Buffalo.
"I want nursing home operators to know we are using technology as a deterrent. Homes should assume there is a camera in the room," he said.
Marilyn L. Pinsky, president of AARP in New York, praised the effort.
"Elder abuse is an issue of critical importance, and our members say it's a major concern," she said. "This approach will help ensure loved ones get the quality of care they deserve."
However, an industry representative questioned Cuomo's plan, starting with concerns over possible privacy violations, especially if a resident is incapable of consenting to a hidden camera.