CNY nursing dwelling didn’t name cops after intercourse offender abused resident three separate occasions
Oswego, NY – A central New York nursing home failed to call police after a registered sex offender living at the facility repeatedly sexually assaulted a resident with dementia, the state said.
The Pontiac Nursing Home in Oswego was unable to consistently monitor the sex offender or take other measures to protect the woman and other residents from the man, an inspection by the state health department reveals.
Nursing home management failed to tell Pontiac’s doctor and some other staff who looked after the man that he was a sex offender, the inspection report said.
Pontiac admitted the man in 2019 despite management knowing he was a registered sex offender for a crime committed in another state.
The report does not identify the man or what he did to end up in the registry, but does say that he is a convicted “known sexual predator”. Another unknown nursing home the man previously lived in said Pontiac the man was “at high risk of heterosexual behavior and exposed his penis to others”.
The health department is investigating the matter after receiving a complaint in October. Following the investigation, the department cited the nursing home for failing to protect residents from abuse, not reporting the incidents to police and the state health department, and not properly investigating the incidents. The nursing home can be fined.
Syracuse.com | The Post Standard uncovered the inspection report during a review of nursing home records.
When a nursing home accepts a sex offender, it has a legal obligation to make sure they care for the individual while protecting other residents, according to Lindsay Heckler, a supervisory attorney at Buffalo’s Center for Elder Law and Justice.
“It is ridiculous, disgusting and incomprehensible that the nursing home staff and the administration no longer contributed to the protection of the residents,” said Heckler after reading the inspection report.
According to LeadingAge New York, a nursing home trading group, federal and state law does not require nursing homes to accept sex offenders or prohibit them from rejecting them. Because the status of a registered sex offender is not a protected class under federal or state law, denial of admission to a sex offender is not a form of discrimination, the group said.
“If the risk of admitting someone is too high, an institution should refuse admission,” said a legal memo on the group’s website.
Pontiac officials referred questions to his attorney Patrick Pullano. He refused to ask questions from Syracuse.com | to answer the Post Standard on Incidents of Sexual Abuse.
“The plant essentially meets all requirements,” he said.
Pontiac submitted a corrective action plan to the state that outlined how it will change the way it deals with sexual abuse cases. The nursing home did not contest any of the state’s findings in its correction plan. The health department approved this plan on November 23.
The for-profit, 80-bed nursing home at 303 East River Road has an eventful history. It is rated “Much Below Average” by Medicare. 142 complaints per 100 beds were generated in the last three years. That’s almost three times more than the average state nursing home, according to the state health department.
A $ 14,000 fine was imposed in October after an inspection found staff were wearing face masks improperly and other infection control issues arose. A $ 21,393 fine was imposed in 2019 for failing to receive emergency care quickly enough for two deceased residents. The city of Oswego threatened to close Pontiac in 2019 because the roof of the nursing home leaked water into the rooms of many residents.
Medicare identified Pontiac eight months ago as a potential candidate for its list of Special Focus Facilities, the worst performing nursing homes in the country with an extensive history of health and safety problems.
Pontiac doesn’t say in his correction plan whether he will inform residents and their families that there is a sex offender living there.
According to Heckler, nursing homes in New York do not have to tell residents and staff about the status of a sex offender. That leaves it to the discretion of the nursing homes, said Jill Montag, spokeswoman for the state health department.
Many other states passed laws making these reports mandatory after the federal government’s Accountability Office published a 2006 report on sex offenders in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Heckler believes New York should follow suit.
The Pontiac sex offender had no short- or long-term memory impairment and was “decision-making” according to a 2019 assessment. Some nurses told the Department of Health inspector that the predator was cognitively impaired.
According to the report, the sex offender sexually assaulted three Pontiac residents.
Video footage showed him rolling a woman in a wheelchair into his room. He was seen standing in front of the woman who was “sexually aroused” when he held her hands. In another incident, he was seen on video exposing himself to another woman while walking through the common room.
The most egregious case, however, involved a resident with advanced dementia whom the sex offender had abused three times. According to the inspection report, the repeated abuse resulted in “real harm” to the woman. People with severe dementia cannot consent to sexual contact.
According to the inspection report:
This woman’s sexual abuse began on March 14, 2020. She was found in the sex offender’s room. He had his head on her chest. His penis was exposed. The nursing home staff separated the two and started checking them every 15 minutes. A social worker told the perpetrator not to let other residents into his room.
The 15 minute controls were discontinued three days later.
Twelve days after the incident, a nurse found the sex offender in the woman’s room. She was lying naked on her bed. He had his hand in her vagina. The two were separated, the perpetrator was moved to another unit, monitored every 30 minutes and a motion sensor was attached to his room door.
But four months later, Pontiac moved the predator back to the same unit that the woman lived in.
On August 22nd, the two were found in the sex offender’s room. He was found straddled on top of her on his bed. A nurse said he was half-naked, her pants down and it looked like he had forced entry. The predator was removed from this unit again.
A nurse who investigated the incident said she did not perform a physical examination on the woman because she was told “nothing happened”. The nursing director said she did not know the man was a convicted sexual predator until she began investigating the Aug. 22 incident. She didn’t think there was any abuse.
The administrator said the nursing home’s doctor did not instruct staff to call the police or send the resident to the hospital to assess the rape after the Aug. 22 incident. However, the doctor informed the inspector that he was unaware that the male resident was a sexual predator and that sexual penetration had occurred. If penetration had occurred, the woman should have been examined and the police notified.
The administrator informed the inspector that the nursing home’s guidelines state that a resident engaging in sexual activity must have “deliberate intent” in order for it to be considered sexual abuse. If the resident is cognitively impaired, there can be no willful intent, she said.
Heckler said if that was the nursing home’s policy, it was out of date. She said willful intent is not a requirement for sexual abuse.
In his corrective action plan, Pontiac said his administrator, the head of nursing and other staff had been “re-educated” how to recognize sexual abuse. The nursing home also announced that it has revised its policy to require cases of sexual abuse to be reported to the police and state health department as required by federal law.
The Pontiac Nursing Home did not report the sexual abuse incidents to Oswego police until October 23, after the Department of Health conducted its investigation. Aldo Bonacchi said the department did not determine if criminal charges were filed until it received more information about the case from the health department and the attorney general.
Nursing homes are required by state and federal laws to report cases of sexual abuse to the state health department and the police.
Heckler suspects sexual abuse in nursing homes is not adequately reported, especially now during the pandemic when visitors are not allowed.
She said there is no excuse for what happened at Pontiac.
“People go to a nursing home because they trust that they will be offered safe care,” said Heckler. “‘What happened is disgusting.”
James T. Mulder is engaged in health and higher education. Do you have a news tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or firstname.lastname@example.org