An aide accused of physically attacking an 85-year-old resident at Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Care Center is not working at the facility during an investigation into what happened.
"The staff member associated with this incident is currently not on service while the investigation is still ongoing," according to the statement released by the Newfane nursing home.
The resident, a hospice patient, was later transferred to Niagara Hospice House in the Town of Lockport, where she died July 10 from colorectal cancer.
The family of the resident, Marion Halstead, has complained to the state Department of Health about the facility where the terminally ill woman was taken last month.
The News published a story on July 16 about Halstead's treatment at Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Care Center. Family members told the News that Halstead told them the aide struck her in the face either late on the night of July 1 or in the early morning hours of July 2.
Liz Kline, one of Halstead's two daughters, filed a complaint on the alleged assault with the health department and additional complaints about the unsanitary conditions at the nursing home and long delays in providing assistance to her mother during the 11 days she was there.
Other relatives filed similar complaints, Kline said.
All complaints are taken seriously, according to the facility's statement. The nursing home has a policy to self-report complaints to the appropriate governmental monitors and make "good faith investigations" while fully cooperating with the state and federal agencies, the statement added.
"When indicated, corrective action is made, staff are retrained and, if necessary, personnel are relieved of their duties," the statement concluded.
Health department spokesperson Erin Silk said the department does not comment on pending investigations, but added it takes allegations of abuse seriously and aggressively pursues them.
Appropriate actions can include referring cases to law enforcement and fines, she said.
Kline said she was appalled by the facility's unsanitary conditions and said because of long waits for help from the staff her mother sometimes soiled herself.
"We're waiting to hear back from the state. I received a letter, acknowledging my complaints," said Kline. "My mother as a hospice patient was in a high-activity area. It was also noisy from other residents. She needed a calm and peaceful environment."
The News' story about her mother's experience prompted other families to reach out to her to share the negative experiences their loved ones encountered at the Newfane facility, she said.
"I am very touched by the people that have commented and shared the story on Facebook. There were over 20 people that came into that place and visited my mom. Not one person could believe how horrible that place was or had one nice thing to say about the place," Kline said.
Kline and her sister, Linda Schumacher, said they went public with their concerns to warn other families of loved ones in need of hospice to check facilities in advance before placing them.
Staff members at the Newfane facility try to assist residents, Kline added, but "the place is severely understaffed" and that makes it "impossible" to meet the residents' needs.
Facility officials, in the statement, responded that "Newfane prides itself on the delivery of quality care through hard working, knowledgeable and compassionate staff."
The facility at 2709 Transit Road, with 165 beds designated for long-term residency and sub-acute rehabilitation, was purchased in 2015 by Maximus Healthcare LLC of Lakewood, N.J. It was formerly owned by Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport.
The federal government's Medicare program, in its ratings of nursing homes, currently gives Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Center an overall rating of "much below average."
The 82-bed Briody Rehab & Residential Health Care Center in Lockport, a second Niagara County nursing home owned by Maximus, has an overall rating of "much above average."