Former nursing home manager faces patient neglect charges after staff cuts

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The ex-manager of Darby, Pa.-based St. Francis Center for Rehabilitation & Health Care has pleaded no contest to recklessly endangering three residents who died after the facility cut staffing, according to a June 3 release from Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

The number of registered nurses at St. Francis dropped by nearly half after Charles-Edouard Gros bought it in 2014, and overall nursing staff fell roughly 20 percent, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.  

The misdemeanor charges against former manager Chaim "Charlie" Steg stem from a 2017 investigation launched after staff from another medical center notified state officials of the poor condition of several residents who had transferred from St. Francis. The investigation found severe neglect of three patients, and the state installed a temporary manager at St. Francis.

Three residents suffered conditions tied to systemic failures driven by inadequate staffing, including pressure wounds, sepsis, dehydration and bowel obstructions. Staff warned Mr. Steg that chronic staffing problems endangered residents but he ignored them, a decision that ultimately led to their deaths, reports Mr. Shapiro.

Under the plea agreement, Mr. Steg must serve six to 23 months of house arrest, followed by three years' probation. He also must pay a $15,000 fine and restitution to the victims' families.  

The charges against Mr. Steg are the first criminal reckless endangerment charges tied to inadequate staffing levels in a Pennsylvania nursing facility, according to the attorney general. The Inquirer was unable to reach Mr. Steg's attorney, Arthur Donato Jr., for comment.

Mr. Gros, the home's majority owner, must also pay $700,000 to care for St. Francis residents. 

Mr. Gros was not criminally charged and didn't respond to an email from the Inquirer requesting comment. When asked why Mr. Gros wasn't facing charges, Mr. Shapiro told the Inquirer, "We filed criminal charges where they were warranted. We held the establishment accountable to the best of our ability."

St. Francis will be required, through a civil settlement, to maintain an increased minimum staffing level and undergo quarterly audits by the Department of Health.

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