James Dempsey, 89, of Woodstock, Ga., died in 2014 at the Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center. At first it appeared the decorated veteran of World War II had died of natural causes. And then his family watched the footage on a hidden camera they had put in his room.
“Nurse, help me please!” cries Dempsey as he struggles for air. “I can’t breathe,” he can be heard saying.
Dempsey calls for help six times before nurses enter his room, and by then he was unresponsive. The nurses can be heard laughing in the video as they try to start his oxygen machine.
Dempsey’s family have sued the nursing home and reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount. Northeast Atlanta Health petitioned the Georgia Supreme Court to keep the video footage sealed, but a DeKalb County judge ruled that local news station WXIA-TV could publish it.
In addition to the video of Dempsey’s death, footage of a deposition from one of the nurses, Wanda Nuckles, was also published. She tells the family’s attorney, Mike Prieto, that she responded to Dempsey’s calls and began immediately performing CPR.
She made these statements not realizing there was hidden camera footage of her. In reality, none of the nurses attempted any life-saving measures.
After being shown the footage of herself, Nuckles reversed her statement. “Sir, that was an honest mistake,” Nuckles told Prieto. “I was just basing everything on what I normally do.”
It took the nurses more than an hour to call 911 after Dempsey had stopped breathing.
Northeast Atlanta Health has a poor track record of care going back years. Medicare records show that the nursing home has been cited more than 20 times for serious safety violations, including ones for “immediate jeopardy.” The facility has been fined $813,113 since 2015.
As for the nurses involved in the Dempsey case, they remained on staff for another 10 months despite the nursing home knowing about the hidden camera footage in November of 2015. In addition, the nurses only lost their license to practice nursing this September after WXIA-TV sent the footage to the Georgia Board of Nursing.
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