Two former officials at the facility then known as Northwoods at Hilltop had a duty to report to the state a 2006 incident that left a child’s breathing significantly compromised for 20 minutes, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
But they didn’t report it, Assistant Attorney General Kathleen Boland told town Justice Paul Zonderman on Wednesday.
“The only reason why we’re here, that we know anything about this,” Boland told Zonderman, “is because the mother of this child reported this event to the Department of Health.”
Standing trial are Diane C. Anderson and David Reaume. Each faces a misdemeanor count accusing them of failing to report the incident to the state. Reaume was the facility’s director of respiratory therapy, Anderson the charge nurse.
Neither was at the facility when the incident happened. Both, though, learned of it in the hours afterward. The case is being heard by Zonderman without a jury.
Reaume’s attorney, Val Serbalik, declined to give an opening statement Wednesday. But Anderson’s attorney, Thomas O’Malley, argued that the extent of the incident wasn’t immediately known.
His client’s duty to report came when there was reason to believe neglect had taken place. That hadn’t happened yet, O’Malley argued.
“They were not at that time under the duty to report because they didn’t have the full information in order for them to form a reasonable belief that abuse or neglect had taken place,” O’Malley argued.
The boy, Wesley Curry, was injured Sept. 20, 2006, after a breathing tube fell out at Northwoods at Hilltop, then the name of the rehabilitation and extended care facility on Providence Avenue, according to a state Department of Health report from October 2006.
An investigation found that nurses failed to respond to alarms for nearly 20 minutes. The criminal charges against Anderson and Reaume relate only to how the incident was reported. No charges were ever filed related to the incident itself.
The boy, son of town of Florida residents Brandon and Vanessa Curry, suffered brain damage as a result of the incident.
He was at the facility after a stay at Albany Medical Center. His parents were learning how to care for him while he was on the ventilator. Wesley was expected to make a full recovery and have a normal childhood.
As a result of the incident, though, Wesley suffered both mental and physical handicaps, his mother testified Wednesday.
Sitting in the gallery for much of the morning session was her husband. Next to Brandon Curry, in his wheelchair, was Wesley, now 6. Wesley frequently made what appeared to be involuntary or strained movements.
The case is expected to continue into next week. It comes to trial more than five years after the incident after a long list of delays. The charges weren’t filed until September 2008.
The facility itself has also undergone significant changes since 2006. By 2010, it was run by Niskayuna Operating Co. LLC, its name changed to Pathways Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
That year, the facility successfully fended off an effort to end its Medicare payment agreement, a move that would have effectively closed it down. The state argued the home failed to correct serious deficiencies identified through a series of inspections.
The two sides, though, came to an agreement in November 2010, with the state accepting the home’s amended plan of correction.
The issues, though, have meant the facility continues to undergo two certification surveys each year, according to the state Department of Health website.
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