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Family sues Medford nursing home, claims neglect led to patient's death

Aurelia Rios, 72, died at the Medford Multicare

Aurelia Rios, 72, died at the Medford Multicare Center for Living Nursing home in Medford. Nine current and former employees of Medford Multicare Center for Living plead not guilty, Thursday, June 5, 2014, to charges they failed to properly care of Rios. Credit: James Carbone

The family of a woman who died at a Medford nursing home has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the facility, its owners and employees alleging neglect led to her death.

Aurelio Rios, 72, a retired dental assistant from Central Islip, died Oct. 26, 2012, of a heart attack because she wasn't attached to a ventilator at night as ordered by her doctor, according to the suit.

For nearly two hours, the nursing staff at Medford Multicare Center for Living ignored audible and visual warnings indicating that Rios was in serious danger with a faint pulse and low blood-oxygen level, the suit states.

The civil complaint was filed last month in State Supreme Court in Riverhead by Rios' daughter, Michelle Giamarino, 52, and son, Juan C. Vega, 37, both of Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

"The owners have a history of having a disregard for life," Giamarino said Thursday. "We feel this is the only way we can hold them accountable."

Following a bout with pneumonia, Rios was admitted as a rehab patient, assigned to the facility's ventilator unit on Sept. 28, 2012, according to the suit.

Andrew Moesel, a spokesman for the nursing home, defended its reputation Thursday. "As we have said all along, we believe that Medford offers excellent care to its patients," he said.

In 2007, the state Department of Health cited Medford Multicare for "numerous" deficiencies in care and treatment of patients, according to the suit. In 2008, six employees were charged with patient neglect and falsifying records. All were convicted.

In the suit, nursing home owners Mordechai Klein, Henry Rausman, Martin Rausman, Michael Rausman and Norman Rausman, all of Monsey in Rockland County, are named as defendants, along with nine employees.

Seven of the employees were on duty the night Rios died. They are: Kethlie Joseph, 62, of Brentwood, a respiratory therapist; nurses Victoria Caldwell, 51, of Medford, Marianne Fassino, 53, of Shirley, and Kimberly Lappe, 32, of Medford; and nurse's aides Christina Corelli of East Patchogue, Patricia DiGiovanni, 63, of Port Jefferson and Leona Gordon, 35, of Medford.

Also named in the suit is David Fielding, 57, of Lido Beach, the facility's administrator, and Christine Boylan, 49, of Mastic, the respiratory therapy director. With the exception of Joseph, who was a per diem employee, all the workers are on leave.

The suit is based on information unearthed by an investigation conducted by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office. Schneiderman has indicted the employees on charges that include patient neglect and abuse, and falsifying business records.

Attorneys for Fielding and Boylan said their clients were not working the night Rios' died and should not be held liable for her death.

Manhattan attorney Joseph DeMatteo, representing Fassino, said the nurse has a spotless 26-year employment record. Attorneys for other employees named in the suit did not return calls seeking comment.

The owners could not be reached.

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