The attorney general's office and the state Department of Health are investigating the death of a 71-year-old woman in the ventilator unit at a Medford nursing home, where employees are facing criminal charges in the death of another resident on the same unit.
Attorney Andrea Camacho of Manhattan, who represents the patient's family, identified the woman as Sandra Cunha and said she died July 20.
Jason Newman, spokesman for the Medford Multicare Center for Living, said Thursday that the woman -- who suffered from acute and chronic respiratory failure and had lived on the unit for six years -- died after her ventilator mechanically malfunctioned and she was unable to breathe. Newman said ventilator alarms went off at 3:46 p.m. He said an employee walking by the room 80 seconds later heard the alarm and entered the room. She, along with others who were quickly called, tried to resuscitate the patient, who was declared dead at 3:48 p.m., Newman said.
A spokesman for the state Health Department said it "has been on site and is investigating this incident."
A law enforcement source confirmed Thursday that Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office is investigating the death and visited the nursing home the next day, after being notified by the Health Department.
This is the second death on the nursing home's 40-bed ventilator unit, which is under investigation. In June, nine Medford employees were arraigned in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on charges ranging from patient neglect and abuse to falsifying business records in the 2012 death of Aurelia Rios, 72, of Central Islip.
According to court papers submitted by Schneiderman, Rios died because she was not attached to her ventilator and employees disregarded alarms alerting them that she was not getting sufficient oxygen. The for-profit nursing home itself is charged with falsifying business records and violating health laws.
Medford and its five owners are also the focus of a separate lawsuit filed by Schneiderman this year, alleging that they "looted" $60 million from the 320-bed home over the years by paying themselves salaries and profits, and by funneling Medicaid funds to their family-run charities while cutting costs.
Attorneys for the facility and the employees have said no crimes were committed in Rios' death and the staff did not try to cover it up.
In a statement Thursday, the nursing home said that it "is committed to providing the highest level of care and strives to offer all of our residents an exceptional service delivered with the greatest level of consideration and compassion. The ownership and administration of Medford Multicare Center acknowledge and thoroughly investigate any and all concerns."
Newman said the ventilator machine in the July 20 case had been regularly serviced. And, he said, the staff responded appropriately when the signals went out that there was a malfunction. According to Newman, the patient was talking as the nurse applied a resuscitation bag to push oxygen into her lungs but she failed quickly after that. He said the nursing home immediately did its own investigation and notified the health department that day.
He said the attorney general's office visited the following day and the health department on Tuesday.
Camacho said a family member had visited Cunha a week before she died.
"There was nothing about her medical condition that would put the family on notice that she was going to be passing in the near future," Camacho said.
Cunha left behind a sister, two daughters, who live in Florida, and four grandchildren, Camacho said.