Schenectady County

Two Northwoods rehab center staffers charged

A state investigation into how an 11-month-old boy’s breathing was severely impaired for 20 minutes

A state investigation into how an 11-month-old boy’s breathing was severely impaired for 20 minutes at a Niskayuna rehabilitation facility has resulted in misdemeanor charges against two employees, authorities said.

One of those employees, a nurse, also faces a felony charge in the alleged removal of a critical note from a young patient’s file in a separate incident.

Diane C. Anderson, who was a registered nurse at Northwoods at Hilltop, and David Reaume, director of respiratory therapy services at the facility, face a misdemeanor count of failing to immediately report the incident with the 11-month-old boy in September 2006.

Anderson, of Niskayuna, also faces a felony count of first-degree falsifying business records. She is accused of taking the note after an incident in January 2007.

Both were arraigned Wednesday evening in Town Court before Justice Paul Zonderman; they were released for appearance next month.

The charges come after a state attorney general’s investigation that has lasted for nearly two years. State officials did not give a reason for the delay.

The misdemeanor case involving the boy, however, was swiftly investigated by the state Health Department.

An investigation found that nurses failed to respond to alarms for nearly 20 minutes. The boy was injured after a breathing tube fell out at Northwoods at Hilltop, a rehabilitation and extended care facility on Providence Avenue, according to a report out in October 2006.

The boy, who was earlier identified as Wesley Curry, son of town of Florida residents Brandon and Vanessa Curry, suffered brain damage as a result.

Cynthia LaFave, attorney for the family, on Wednesday welcomed the news that charges have been filed.

“I am very, very happy the matter is being pursued,” LaFave said, speaking for the family. “Personally, I would have liked to have seen them pursuing other portions of the case.”

The boy continues to suffer long-term effects from the incident, LaFave said. “The family is incredibly supportive. They’re trying as hard as they can.”

A Northwoods spokeswoman noted that the allegations are nearly two years old. Any problems have already been corrected, spokeswoman Lisa Cupolo said.

“Our No. 1 goal is always to protect the safety of all our patients,” she said. “The situation was rectified two years ago.”

The incident involving the boy happened the evening of Sept. 20, 2006. The state Department of Health report found that there was a 19-minute period in which the child’s condition was “significantly compromised.” His heart rate at one point was zero.

Investigators activated the cardiac and ventilator alarms and found that they were not audible in the hallway. Volume controls for the alarms were also turned off, but they might have been turned off during the incident, according to the report.

The charges filed this week only relate to how the incident was reported. The state Department of Health was notified the next day by the child’s mother. She told officials she was suspicious about the information she had been told about the incident.

Anderson allegedly told investigators that she reviewed an internal report but found nothing wrong, including the time sequence.

Reaume, of Stillwater, also reviewed the incident and did not file a report, according to papers filed in court.

The charge states that they failed to report the incident within 48 hours “when they had reasonable cause to believe” that a patient “had been abused, mistreated and neglected.”

In the felony case, Anderson is accused of taking the critical note from a child patient’s file. The note allegedly related to a January 2007 incident in which Anderson was accused of failing to properly assess the patient and left the room.

Anderson allegedly produced the note when confronted by the co-worker who originally filed it, according to papers.

Anderson is listed with the state Office of the Professions as a registered professional nurse. Reaume is listed with the state as a registered respiratory therapist.

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