Video footage from a hidden camera revealed that a decorated World War II veteran was gasping for breath while his nursing home staff failed to deliver proper care and was seen laughing in front of the unconscious man. James Dempsey’s family hid the camera in his room prior to his death to ease his concerns about going into a nursing facility. Based on the video footage, his family sued Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center and settled a claim over his death.
According to The Washington Post, the video showed Dempsey press the call button around 4:30 a.m. on February 27, 2014, the day he died. Nearly 10 minutes later, a staff member entered his room, checked the tubes around his neck, adjusted his bed and then turned the call light off and left the room. Staff next entered the room about an hour later to find Dempsey unresponsive. After another hour passed, they called 911.
Beyond the issue of timeframe, the video also revealed concerns with the standard of care given to Dempsey. According to USA Today, the video showed that one nurse did not check Dempsey’s vital signs while the former nursing supervisors did not immediately start performing CPR. In fact, nursing staff repeatedly started and stopped CPR. The former nursing supervisor testified that once chest compressions are started, the compressions should continue until a doctor decides not to resuscitate. Additionally, while Dempsey was unconscious, the nursing supervisor and other nurses were recorded laughing as they struggled to operate Dempsey’s oxygen machine.
The nursing home did not fire the nurses, who were caring for Dempsey when he died, until 10 months after becoming aware of the video. The nursing supervisor and other nurses that were identified in the video surrendered their nursing licenses about three years after Dempsey passed away.
Medicare records show that Dempsey was not the only resident to suffer under the care of Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center. The home was cited at least 24 times for health and safety violations and has been fined more than $800,000 since 2015. Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation is rated one star by Medicare, yet remains open.
Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center attempted to have the video of Dempsey’s last conscious moments sealed by the court and kept out of the public eye. It was released under a judge’s order and aired on local television stations.