LPN Maria Fernandez Charged With Hitting An 83-Year-Old Dementia Patient; Alleged Abuse Caught On Camera
Schneiderman: New York Health Care Workers Have A Legal Duty To Protect Their Patients
PEARL RIVER – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest of Maria Fernandez, a licensed practical nurse, for allegedly slapping an 83-year-old, wheelchair-bound resident in the dining hall of Victory Lake Nursing Center in the Town of Hyde Park. Fernandez, who no longer works at the facility, faces a felony endangerment charge, and up to four years in prison, after the interaction was caught on a surveillance camera. The resident, whose identity is being kept confidential, suffers from dementia and other ailments that rendered her totally dependent on others for care.
“Our healthcare workers have a basic legal duty to provide a safe and secure living environment for all patients, and especially for those who cannot care for themselves,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Abuse of our most vulnerable citizens cannot and will not be tolerated — and my office will pursue criminal charges were appropriate.”
A felony complaint filed in the Hyde Park Town Justice Court by the Attorney General’s Office charges Fernandez, 53, of Poughkeepsie, with one count of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree, a class E Felony, and one count of Wilful Violation of the Health Laws, a Misdemeanor.
The complaint alleges that Fernandez struck the resident on the afternoon of September 3, 2013, inside the facility, located at 419 North Quaker Lane. At Fernandez’s arraignment, prosecutors stated that evidence shows that Fernandez struck the resident after the resident argued with an aide who was attempting to clear the resident’s meal tray.
Fernandez , who pleaded not guilty, was arraigned yesterday before Hyde Park Town Justice John M. Kennedy and released on her own recognizance.
The charges are accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The case was investigated by Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) Senior Investigator Frank Bluszcz, Senior Investigator Frank DiChiaro and Supervising Investigator Peter Markiewicz.
The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Todd Pettigrew of the MFCU Pearl River Regional Office with the assistance of Regional Director Anne Jardine. Thomas O’Hanlon is the Chief of Criminal Investigations-Downstate. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is led by Acting Director Amy Held. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.