Current and former employees of an Ohio nursing facility are accused of mistreating two patients in their care, including one who died as a result of the nurses' actions, Attorney General Dave Yost said Thursday.
A Franklin County grand jury indicted seven people who worked as nurses in 2017 at Whetstone Gardens and Care Center in Columbus, Yost said in a news conference.
The defendants face 34 charges, including involuntary manslaughter and patient neglect, Yost's office said.
One patient "literally rotted to death" as a direct result of the nurses' neglect, Yost said, adding that another suffered physical harm because nurses falsified her medical records and forged signatures.
"This is gut-wrenching for anyone who has entrusted a care facility with the well-being and safety of a loved one," Yost said.
The accused include six current and former employees and a contracted certified nurse. According to online court records, they have not entered pleas and no attorneys were listed for them.
A spokesman for Whetstone said it has been cooperating with law enforcement since concerns arose two years ago.
Four employees were immediately fired for falsifying the second patient's records, spokesman Ryan Stubenrauch told CNN.
But Whetstone "strongly" disagrees with accusations that its employees were responsible for the other patient's death, Stubenrauch said.
Two employees accused of manslaughter were suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, he said. The contracted certified nurse is no longer at the facility, he said.
"It's truly a tragedy any time one of our residents dies," he said. "We're confident that this man's tragic death was not the result of neglect at our facility."
A timeline of the allegations
The first patient developed wounds on his body in February 2017 that progressed to gangrenous and necrotic tissue, Yost said. Nurses delayed bringing him to a hospital, where he died on March 5, 2017, from septic shock as a result of the wounds.
Three defendants were indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter, gross patient neglect and patient neglect, Yost said. They are accused of failing to take medically appropriate steps that could have saved his life.
Whetstone disagrees that the treatment provided by employees caused his death, Stubenrauch said.
"There are a lot of circumstances around that gentleman and his untimely passing," Stubenrauch said. "We are confident that once those things come out it will be clear that the care he was provided at Whetstone did not contribute to his death."
The second patient suffered physical harm as a result of inadequate care because nurses falsified her medical records, Yost said.
The patient's medical records contained false information and forged signatures of nursing staff. An investigation found that the patient's medical file listed care at times when the patient was not physically present at the facility.
"As soon as it happened we did an immediate review and fired the people who broke our rules and our trust," Stubenrauch said.
Five nurses were indicted on charges including forgery and gross patient neglect. The patient later died, but no one faces charges related to the death.
"These victims were completely dependent on others for day-to-day care, which their families trusted Whetstone Gardens to provide. Instead of providing that care, evidence shows these nurses forced the victims to endure awful mistreatment and then lied about it," Yost said.