Grieving mother reacts to state fines after son’s death at HighPointe

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BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) A Buffalo mother is speaking out, one day after the New York State Attorney General’s Office announced a $500,000 settlement with Kaleida related to Medicaid fraud after Highpointe nursing facility was found to be under-staffed on the day a sixteen-month old toddler died.

“Every day that he was there, he wasn’t getting the proper care,” said Latifa Johnson. She says she hopes another child and another family never have to go through what her son, Jameir Benn, went through in February of 2015.

He was born prematurely in 2013, and his airway never developed properly. Half of his life was spent in hospitals and nursing care. In a settlement announced on Tuesday, the State Attorney General’s Office says the Highpointe on Michagan Avenue wasn’t properly staffed to monitor him on the day he choked and died.

He was left alone for more than an hour, monitored by a paging system which also wasn’t properly monitored,” according to Mike Scinta, an attorney representing Johnson in a pending civil suit. “The pager system allows them to be notified when somebody’s vitals go down or there’s a problem with a patient. Unfortunately, no one had those pagers with them at the time.”

In response, Kaleida Health said, in part; “We have made significant changes and investments over the past few years relative to staffing and quality of care. This includes adding more than 75 full-time employees, changing out 85% of management and 60% of our front line staff, ” at Highpointe. The facility now receives a five start quality rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“It’s a tragedy to me that my son had to be the example for them to do the right things,” said Johnson, who notes that Jamier was a triplet. His sisters are now six years old. “And they miss they’re brother every single day. There’s not a day that goes by that my babies don’t mention their brother and they really don’t understand where their brother is. They know that he’s in heaven, but they think that one day he can come home.”

Latifa Johnson and her attorney plan to go to trial early in 2020 with a civil suit against Kaleida seeking damages for injuries and deprivation of rights sustained by Jameir and punitive damages related to his care at the facility.

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