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Oswego working with attorney general's office on Pontiac investigation

Jason Smith

New York state recently published the results of an inspection at an Oswego nursing home, which revealed several violations. Among the citations included in the State Department of Health report from April was that staff at the Pontiac Care and Rehabilitation Center failed to report a resident's attempted suicide, one nurse borrowed money from a resident and then missed one of the payments owed, and a blind resident who was supposed to be supervised while eating experienced a first-degree burn when he spilled hot cocoa on himself while in bed.

The report is made public at a time when Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow is inviting former and current staff and residents at Pontiac to report any violations they have seen at the facility. He said these findings add to his ongoing efforts to prompt the state to shut down the facility or have a third-party take it over.

"We've received an enormous amount of public input and as a result we have actually partnered with the attorney general's office," Barlow said. "They are conducting a sex abuse case and we are folding our investigation up into theirs, which is good because some certainly credible information has come out of this."

Pontiac attorney Langston McFadden notes that all of the citations in the April investigation have since been corrected, that the state ultimately did not fine the facility for anything, and that staff have been disciplined and informed of state policy accordingly.

State records show that Pontiac has received 49 citations over the last four years, more than double the statewide average. McFadden said they are attempting to work with the state on any outstanding issues and have offered to sit down with Barlow's administration to work on a plan. Barlow, however, is skeptical.

"It's only because an enforcement agency, whether it's city of Oswego Code Enforcement, State Department of Health, or the New York State Attorney General's office, comes forward and cites them that they then decide to stand up straight and [say] let's correct this issue and let's get serious," Barlow said. "But when nobody is looking or we're not over there every single day is when things go sideways."

Pontiac recently landed on the federal government's short list of nursing facilities that have significant problems or a history of compliance issues. But in the latest report of these facilities, Pontiac is said to have shown improvement.

McFadden shared the following statement on behalf of Pontiac in response to the April report: 

“The deficiencies identified in the April 22, 2021, Statement of Deficiencies issued by the New York State Department of Health (“DOH”) were previously addressed and remedied when first brought to the attention of Pontiac Nursing Home. The DOH found no actual harm to any residents and no penalties were imposed against Pontiac. Since the Statement was issued more than two months ago, Pontiac has adopted measures to rectify such administrative oversights, including reeducating staff members and administrators and implementing internal policy changes. Such corrective measures have been found acceptable by the DOH. With respect to the facility’s failure to report a resident’s suicide attempt to the DOH, such deficiency was solely related to the failure to report. It should be noted that due to the quick response of Pontiac’s staff, the resident was prevented from taking his own life and was quickly provided the necessary mental health treatment and care. As for the employee that borrowed money from a resident, the employee involved has been reprimanded and disciplined for his actions and directed to review the employee handbook to remind him of his duties, responsibilities and limitations as a Pontiac employee. Pursuant to Pontiac’s written policy, any employee that accepts money or gifts from residents will be subject to discipline up to and including termination. All employees have been reminded of this policy. Pontiac Nursing Home and its dedicated employees and management team take pride in the skilled nursing and rehabilitation services they provide to the facility’s vulnerable population. Pontiac is committed to providing superior quality care to its residents today and into the future.”