WOODBURY, Long Island (WABC) -- A New York nursing home left elderly residents to live in "heartbreaking and inhumane" conditions while its owners diverted more than $22 million for themselves, New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged Friday.
The owners and senior managers of Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on Long Island created a network of shell companies to conceal the alleged fraud that siphoned Medicare and Medicaid funds that were supposed to be used for resident care, according to the attorney general's lawsuit.
This is the third enforcement action the attorney general's office has taken in recent weeks to stop pervasive fraud in nursing homes in the state.
"Cold Spring Hills' owners put profits over patient care and left vulnerable New Yorkers to live in heartbreaking and inhumane conditions," James said. "From Buffalo to Long Island, every nursing home in New York must abide by laws that require the best care for New Yorkers."
The son of a patient who died at the facility spoke out on Friday. He said as soon as he walked into his 72-year-old father's room on Easter Sunday, he knew something was wrong.
Michael Luszczyk said his father was covered in feces and urine.
"Yep and not conscious, they couldn't tell me the last time they cleaned him up, they couldn't tell me the last time they checked on him," Luszczyk said.
And nurses never got help. The NYPD officer called for help himself.
"I had to call my own ambulance at a nursing facility," he said.
Substandard conditions in nursing homes around the country were exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cold Spring Hills was among the nursing homes found to have underreported resident deaths from the virus. However, according to James' lawsuit, the 588-bed facility in Woodbury has "a long history of insufficient staffing and poor quality of care."
The lawsuit singled out several examples of "harrowing" neglect, harm and suffering:
-A diabetic resident had difficulty walking and was given a wheelchair by Cold Spring Hills that did not have footrests. To use the wheelchair, he had to drag both of his feet on the floor and as a result developed sores on his right foot. He was taken to the hospital and had to have part of his toe amputated because of the severity of his infections. Shortly after returning to Cold Spring Hills, he died. His co-guardian was never informed of his condition after he returned to the facility and was not told when he died.
-A man was admitted to Cold Spring Hills to regain mobility after a car crash left him badly injured. During his time at Cold Spring Hills, he received such poor care that he lost at least 30 pounds and his injury worsened. He had a preexisting pressure sore, and Cold Spring Hills' medical records reflect that his pressure injury increased in size and advanced from a stage 3 to the most severe stage 4 while he was under the care of Cold Spring Hills. In August 2021, he was admitted to the hospital for severe malnutrition, dehydration, a stage 4 sacral pressure injury, and right foot osteomyelitis (an infection in his bone). He told his wife, "They tried to kill me at Cold Spring Hills."
-A woman was admitted to Cold Spring Hills after suffering from a stroke that affected her ability to walk, use her right arm and hand, and speak. She was at the facility for only five months, and during her entire time there she only received three showers. Her daughter reported that her mother sat in an unchanged brief for hours. While visiting the facility, her daughter noticed that her mother's nails on her right paralyzed hand were so long that they caused abrasions on the inside of her hand. Her daughter complained to the Cold Spring Hills administrator about her mother's nails and was ignored.
Among other things, the lawsuit alleged the nursing home paid more than $15 million in fraudulent rent to Cold Spring Realty, which is owned by the same individuals who operate the nursing home, and paid more than $5 million to several entities for supposed consulting. In total, the nursing home transferred over $42.4 million to its owners from 2016 to 2021, the lawsuit said.
James is seeking to prohibit the nursing home from admitting new residents until there's appropriate staffing. She also is asking for monitors to watch over Cold Spring Hills' finances and healthcare services along with monetary penalties.