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Medford nursing home worker testifies he didn't tell relief staff to connect resident to ventilator

Kethlie Joseph, of Brentwood, arrives at Suffolk County

Kethlie Joseph, of Brentwood, arrives at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Monday, May 4, 2015. Joseph is one of nine health care workers charged in the death of a Medford nursing home resident who died on Oct. 26, 2012. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A former Medford nursing home employee testified Friday at the trial of five health care workers charged in a resident's death that he did not tell a colleague who relieved him in October 2012 that the resident needed to be connected to a ventilator.

Stephen Shanahan, a respiratory therapist who worked at Medford Multicare Center from 2004 to 2013, said he stopped the practice of verbally relaying patient information to incoming staff in 2011, the year the facility administrator cut half an hour from his shift, which amounted to about $16. He said patient information was available on a card-filing system located in the office.

"They specifically told us there will be no more verbal reports," said Shanahan, 60, of Selden.

The resident, Aurelia Rios, 72, of Central Islip died Oct. 26, 2012, after, state prosecutors said, Kethlie Joseph, the respiratory therapist who relieved Shanahan, failed to connect Rios to a ventilator that night when she went to bed. Rios was one of about 20 patients that Joseph had to care for that night, her defense attorney told jurors.

Brenda Adams, the director of nursing at Medford Multicare Center, had testified earlier this month that the nursing home did not order its nurses or respiratory therapists to stop verbally relaying patient information to personnel coming on duty during a shift change, and failing to do so is a violation of their professional responsibility.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office also alleged that Joseph and three nurses ignored for nearly two hours audible and visual alarms that indicated Rios' pulse and blood-oxygen levels were low or nonexistent. Their failure to provide her care led to her death, the attorney general's office said.

The four women and a fifth defendant, Christine Boylan, attempted to cover up Rios' death or their roles in her death by lying to investigators from the state Health Department and the nursing home, which launched separate inquires within days of Rios' death, prosecutors said.

After Rios died, Boylan, Shanahan's supervisor, told him he had to provide a verbal report to the staff relieving him, but he refused.

The nursing staff worked a 12-hour shift, typically from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Shanahan said his shift ended at 7 p.m. and if the nursing home wanted him to stay beyond his shift to give a verbal report, then he should be paid for his time.

Under questioning by Joseph's attorney, Jonathan Manley of Hauppauge, Shanahan acknowledged he wrote to the facility administrator and said he wouldn't give a verbal report until the administrator paid him for the half-hour.

"I refused to give it on the grounds that this was another slap in the face," Shanahan said.

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