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State Health Dept. finds deficiencies at nursing home where woman, 82, died after beating

The Delaware Avenue nursing home where an 82-year-old woman suffered fatal injuries in a beating in late August has been cited for four deficiencies, and the operators’ plan to correct the problems has been rejected.

An inspection at Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the days following the death of Ruth Murray found “the facility failed to provide adequate supervision to prevent accidents and ensure resident safety,” according to the state Health Department.

That was one of four deficiencies for which Emerald South was cited on Sept. 16. The nursing home’s operators last week submitted a plan of correction to try to address the shortcomings, but the department rejected the plan.

The nursing home’s operators still must submit and win approval for a plan of correction. The Health Department declined to release information on the deficiencies identified in the inspection because the department’s probe into Murray’s death continues.

“State DOH’s investigation into allegations of resident-to-resident abuse at Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation is ongoing. Based on the seriousness of the matter, DOH will be reviewing all appropriate enforcement actions against the facility,” the department said in a statement.

“We are working closely with the Department of Health on the Plan of Corrections and expect they will be accepted soon,” A spokesman for the operators of the home said.

Murray was a resident of Emerald South, 1175 Delaware Ave. near West Ferry Street, in Buffalo. On the morning of Aug. 26, Murray mistakenly wandered into a man’s room in the dementia unit, where she also lived, officials previously told The News.

Murray suffered a broken neck, several broken ribs, a broken nose, facial fractures and a collapsed lung in the attack, according to a police report, which did not explain the nature of the altercation.

She died three days later in Erie County Medical Center.

Emerald South fares poorly on measures used by federal and state agencies to rate nursing homes. The federal government gave Emerald South the lowest possible score on its 2016 overall rating.

And in July, the union for workers at Emerald South held an informational picket outside the facility to protest low staffing levels there and at other nursing homes controlled by the same owners.

The facility formerly was known as the Presbyterian Home, but Presbyterian Senior Care sold it in 2012. Benjamin Landa, founder of the state’s largest nursing home network, acquired the facility as an appointed receiver before transferring ownership to his wife, Judy, and a partner, Barry Jeremias, through an entity known as Opal Care LLC, according to Health Department records. Jeremias recently applied for permission to sell his ownership shares to Judy Landa.

Emerald South has a high number of complaints compared with other nursing homes in the state, and inspector visits prompted by those complaints led to the home being cited for a higher number of deficiencies, according to Health Department data.

For the four years between August 2012 and July 2016, Emerald South generated 151.8 complaints per 100 occupied beds, nearly four times the statewide average for nursing homes of 41 complaints per 100 occupied beds. The department visited Emerald South nine times in the last four years and issued 149 citations during those inspections, more than four times the state average over the same period.

Michael Scinta, a lawyer with the Brown Chiari law firm, represents the family of Murray. He has been gathering information about Murray’s care and the home’s operation since the attack, and said the Health Department’s finding of deficiencies demonstrates there were problems at the home.

“At the time of Ms. Murray’s death, they failed to meet the appropriate standard of care, relative to her needs as well as the needs of other residents at the facility,” Scinta said.

Scinta said the plan of correction is a chance for the home to make changes to ensure a similar incident doesn’t occur again.

By rejecting the submitted plan, he said, “the Department of Health must not believe that Emerald has done enough to right the wrongs.”

As for the male resident whose room Murray entered, Michael J. DeGeorge, a spokesman for the Buffalo Police Department, said the case is in the hands of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.

email: swatson@buffnews.com

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