Lawmaker seeks inquiry into New York care homes after maggots found in patient’s breathing tube

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 August, 2017, 12:38pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 August, 2017, 10:39pm

A New York lawmaker is demanding a federal investigation into the state’s care for the disabled following a report that revealed the case of a man infested with maggots in a state-run care home.

Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, of Utica, said on Saturday that he is asking the US Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the group home and other state-regulated facilities for the disabled where there have been allegations of abuse and neglect.

“It’s clear from seeing this that New York state cannot be relied on to police itself,” said Brindisi, who is running for congress. “When you have thousands of cases [of abuse and neglect] happening across the state – this being one of the most egregious – we must give some reassurance to families that their loved ones are being taken care of.”

The call for a federal investigation comes after a story on Thursday that showed it is often easier to find health and safety information for local restaurants than it is to learn about the conditions at facilities serving about 1 million of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Forty-one-year-old Steven Wenger was twice found to have maggots crawling around his breathing tube in a state-owned and -operated small group home in Rome, New York, last summer.

Wenger cannot walk, talk or feed himself after suffering severe brain trauma in a 1991 car crash.

A state investigation concluded that the infestation was the result of neglect and that carers failed to properly clean the site of Wenger’s breathing tube. Yet no carers were disciplined and the report on the case was made confidential. The agency in charge of the facility says it did increase training for staff. Wenger is now being cared for in a different facility.

A copy of the report was obtained by Associated Press. It found that New York state is not alone in making it difficult for members of the public to access records about allegations of abuse and neglect in state-regulated facilities for the disabled.

In New York, the Justice Centre is tasked with investigating cases related to the care of about 1 million New Yorkers.

Brindisi said he sought details about Wenger’s case earlier this year after the man’s father contacted him with concerns about his son’s care. He said officials at the Justice Centre told him that the case was closed and that Wenger’s father was satisfied with the results – something that wasn’t the case.

“There has to be more transparency by the Justice Centre,” he said.

Asked about Brindisi’s comments, Justice Centre spokesman William Reynolds said on Saturday the agency regularly works with federal officials “and will continue to do so as needed”.

The Justice Centre said it conducted an “exhaustive” review of the incident but could not assign responsibility to any specific staff members.