Investigating the Investigators (Part I)

Catherine Scott, Acting Inspector General

Office of the State Inspector General

Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 2 16th Floor

Albany, New York 12223


Re:      NYS Dept. of Health, Central New York Regional Office, Long Term Care Unit

217 South Salina Street, Syracuse, NY 13202-1380


Dear Ms Scott,

This is a complaint against the Long Term Care Unit of the Central New York Regional Office of the NYS Dept. of Health, specifically against Investigator Rose Olivo, R.N.; her supervisor, Program Manager Karen Vendetti; and her supervisor, Acting Director Nancy Finnegan.  The complaint is that they failed to properly investigate and respond to complaints about Rome Center for Rehabilitation and Health Care, formerly known as Stonehedge Health and Rehabilitation Center. 

There are on-line complaints against Stonehedge/Rome Center; there are complaints on the DOH Nursing Home Hotline; there are 911 calls from patients inside Stonehedge/Rome Center, but the DOH Regional Long Term Care Unit personnel claim there is nothing wrong.  The NYS Office of the Aging Ombudsman for Oneida County, reports that with increasing frequency “They do an investigation and find nothing wrong.”

On Tuesday, November 6, I was admitted to Rome Center around 2:00 p.m.  A series of very bad things happened, culminating Wednesday morning in the nursing supervisor telling me I was going to be ambulanced to the hospital because she didn’t like my attitude.  I called Gregory Allen, director of the DOH Division of Program Development & Management (with whom I had previously worked on an OMIG investigation of Medicaid transportation) to request assistance because the Nursing Home Complaint Hotline was not being answered. 

I went home that day and followed up by posting to my blog a two-part piece called “Rome Center a/k/a Stonehedge, Parts I & II” and (copy enclosed).   I forwarded the blogs to Greg Allen and others; additionally, I may have exchanged emails on the subject—I don’t remember.  I did not at any time file a formal written complaint with DOH against Rome Center because I did not have technical access.

I received from Greg Allen an email which provided me with the case number assigned to the matter of Rome Center (NY00122617), so I called the DOH Central New York Regional Office in an attempt to speak with the investigator assigned to the case.  I was transferred to a woman who refused to give her name until I had identified myself. She is a government employee on the job and being paid by the citizens; she bloody well should give her name to anyone who asks for it. Transparency begins with your name. Her name turned out to be Karen Vendetti and she’s the program manager.  She said she didn’t know who the investigator was but would find out and call me back the next day.

The next day, November 16, her caller ID showed up on my phone.  When I called her back, she was rude, hostile, uncommunicative, and demanded to know what I wanted. She refused to identify the investigator, telling me, instead, that the office in Albany would triage complaints, prioritize them, and then the complaint would be assigned to an investigator here in Syracuse.

When I asked Vendetti what complaint she had, she refused to tell me.  Had someone else filed a complaint on my behalf?  Were they using a copy of my blog as the complaint?  Was it based solely on a telephone message?  How could they appropriately triage and prioritize?  When I asked Vendetti to forward me a copy of what she was referring to as my complaint, she refused.  She told me to check my Outbox. 

I have three email accounts, 4910 documents in the Outboxes, and multiple contacts in the Dept. of Health.  There was no way I could identify what they had received, nor should I have to.  Give me one good reason why Vendetti would not forward to me what she claimed to be my own email.  She refuses to work cooperatively with the public.

Vendetti insisted that when my case came up to be investigated then someone would call and interview me.  She refused to give me any kind of estimate of when that would be.  When I asked to speak to her supervisor, she arrogantly announced, “I am the supervisor.”  It took me three tries before she gave me the name of her supervisor.  Karen Vendetti, who works for the people of New York State, was absolutely determined to control my access and make sure I spoke to no one except her.

When I spoke with Vendetti’s supervisor, Acting Director Nancy Finnegan, she repeated exactly what Vendetti had said:  (a) she would not forward my so-called “complaint” to me so I could verify it; (b) I should check my Outbox; (c) I would be interviewed before the investigation was conducted.

Sometime later I received a letter from the Centralized Complaint Intake Unit, Division of Residential Services, saying “The investigator assigned . . . will contact you for further information.”  The letter was not signed by any individual.

On Monday, November 26, I received a phone call from Investigator Rose Olivo, R.N., in the regional office in Syracuse.  Olivo stated that she had investigated my complaint and found it without merit.  Despite the statements of Vendetti, Finnegan, and the Intake Unit, I had not at any time been interviewed prior to the investigation.

Dumbfounded, I tried to enter into a discussion with Olivo.  She was defensive, hostile and not forthcoming.  Against her wishes, the information I pried from her included that she had made a site visit at Rome Center.  Regarding the fact that I couldn’t get the Nursing Home Complaint Hotline number or the contact information for the Oneida County ombudsman, Olivo said that “the information was posted by the front door and was in the admissions packet.”

  • Fact:  Nobody told me it was by the front door.
  • Fact:  I was mostly bedridden.  At one point I was virtually tied to my bed.  I have an indwelling catheter and the Rome Center bed had no proper place to hang the catheter bag so the staff member jammed it into the springs.  I could not get it loose.  My call bell went unanswered for forty minutes.
  • Fact:  When I was admitted on Tuesday I was told I would not get the admissions packet until Wednesday.  I never got it.

These facts notwithstanding, when I requested the information from the social worker and the Director of Social Work, they both withheld it as a means of controlling my behavior.  There is absolutely no way this denial of patient’s rights is acceptable in a long-term care facility, but Olivo found it without fault.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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2 Responses to Investigating the Investigators (Part I)

  1. idebenone says:

    The Social Security Administration, or SSA, has hundreds of separate offices across the country. Each office is responsible for handling social security issues such as distributing Social Security cards and payments in a specified region. If you have been given unfair treatment by any person or persons, you should file a complaint immediately. The sooner you file the complaint, the easier it will be for the SSA to investigate your complaint and resolve the issue.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      In fact, I went to the Social Security Administration office in Syracuse. The computer at the wheelchair-accessible window was being used as a non-customer-service work site by an employee therefore I was expected to sit a couple feet below the little grill at a regular window and shout my personal information up to the employee in front of a packed waiting room. I wouldn’t do it. I forced them to use the wheelchair accessible window, even though the worker wouldn’t move. Someone from a regular window had to run back and forth from her computer to my wheelchair. As soon as I had finished my business with SSA, I went to a congressman’s office–located in the same building–and filed a complaint. The office manager said she would hand-carry the complaint to SSA right away. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is filing “a complaint immediately.”

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