Berlin Limo Firm Socked With $500,000 Judgment For Underpaying Drivers

by Categorized: Workplace Safety Date:

A Berlin limousine company must pay $500,000 in back wages to 183 drivers who were denied overtime pay, under a federal court judgment announced Wednesday.

Premier Limousine and its owner, Stephen DiMarco, were sued by the U.S. Department of Labor in March 2012. The judgment, filed in U.S. District Court in Hartford, also requires the company to pay unspecified damages to the affected drivers.

Federal workplace regulators said Premier’s drivers were routinely paid straight-time wages for overtime work.

DiMarco said in a statement Wednesday that the drivers were exempt from overtime to give them flexibility.

“During the past 30 years, our chauffeurs have been exempt from overtime and have benefitted from the freedom to work the hours that met their needs,” DiMarco said.

He said that “despite Premier’s vigorous defense and the fact that the law throughout the country is still unsettled, we have entered into this settlement to put this matter behind us and will comply fully with its terms.”

The labor department had a different view of Premier’s practices.

“We found many employees working long hours without any overtime compensation,” said the labor department’s Michelle Garvey. She directs the Wage and Hour Division’s Hartford office.

Garvey said these practices are common in the industry and that investigators are making unannounced visits to limousine services throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island to identify other violations.

Garvey said the crackdown helps “to ensure a level playing field for law-abiding employers.”

The labor department sued Premier Limousine and DiMarco under the Fair Labor Standards Act, alleging drivers who operated sedans, limousines and sport utility vehicles were not paid at the time-and-a-half overtime rate when they worked beyond 40 hours in a week.

DiMarco maintained that Premier has “always operated in good faith and in compliance with all applicable wage and hour laws.”

The labor department said in a statement Wednesday that Premier’s payroll records also failed to reflect drivers’ total daily and weekly hours, as required by the federal act.

The court judgment includes back wages, damages, and interest on the money that Premier  should have paid the workers in the first place.

Companies who commit these violations are receiving “what is, in essence, an interest-free loan from their employees’ paychecks,” said Michael Felsen, the labor department’s regional solicitor  in New England.


Warrant Alleges Classic Prescription-Drug Case Against Milford Doctor

by Categorized: Healthcare, Justice Date:

Everything that federal drug agents have come to expect from doctors who overprescribe narcotics to patients they barely examine was present in the case of Dr. John Katsetos of Milford and Stamford, according to federal court records.

A search warrant prepared by a DEA agent before Katsetos’ arrest last week on drug-conspiracy charges lists the “red flags” that suggest a doctor “is prescribing narcotics outside the scope of legitimate medical practice.”

These include: spending only a few minutes with patients and sending them on their way with prescriptions for narcotics without a physical examination; ignoring warnings about the health of drug-addicted patients from insurance companies, pharmacies, other doctors, and family members; ignoring toxicology reports that show a patient is also taking illegal narcotics, or that the patient is drug-free and might be selling the doctor’s prescriptions on the street; ignoring a patient’s deteriorating health or physical appearance; telling patients to patronize some pharmacies and avoid others; and providing potentially deadly “prescription-drug cocktails” to patients.

“Katsetos’ … prescribing practices include all of the above listed red flags,” the DEA’s warrant affidavit asserts.

Federal law officers first got a tip about Katsetos, 52, from local police in May 2011. By the time they had built a case using undercover agents posing as patients and canvassing at least nine different pharmacies, Katsetos had prescribed over 2 million doses of Oxycontin and other opiates to over 2,000 patients, some of whom had traveled several hundred miles round trip just to refill their supplies, the warrant states.

When one patient overdosed and died in New York, police officers found empty bottles of pills prescribed by Katsetos around her body, according to the warrant.

Katsetos continued to prescribe narcotics to patients without proper examinations even after he suspected that he was being investigated, the warrant states. He asked an undercover law officer posing as a patient if he was an FBI agent. The agent answered “no,” and the doctor wrote the prescription following a cursory examination during which the agent said he was not feeling any pain, the warrant asserts.

Katsetos, who practiced internal medicine, prescribed as much or more narcotics than doctors who specialized in pain management, the warrant states. He was eighth out of 2,881 doctors on the list of Connecticut prescribers, the warrant states.

The state Department of Consumer Protection has suspended Katsetos’ controlled-drug permits, a department spokeswoman said Monday. Katsetos faces up to 20 years in prison on a charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. He is free after posting $1 million bond. His lawyer, Eugene Riccio, of Bridgeport, did not immediately return a phone call Monday seeking comment.







Feds Fine Windsor Firm For Safety Violations

by Categorized: Workplace Safety Date:

Federal safety officials said they found 17 serious safety violations at TLD Ace. Corp. of Windsor, a maker of ground-support equipment for aircraft, and have fined the company $85,000.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said investigators went to the Bloomfield Avenue plant on a snow-removal complaint but expanded the probe after reviewing TLD Ace’s higher-than-average rate of worker injuries and illnesses.

An inspection in February found that workers were routinely exposed to “potential falls, burns and electric shock due to missing or inadequate safeguards at the company’s manufacturing plant.”

Warren Simpson, OSHA’s area director in Hartford, said the amount of lost work days indicated serious problems at the plant.

“What we found were conditions that could seriously injure workers or negatively impact their health,” Simpson said in the statement. “It’s crucial for this company to correct these conditions now and take action to prevent them from happening again.”

OSHA inspectors went to the plant on a complaint that employees were exposed to falls while removing snow from the roof.

 Once inside, inspectors found that electrical equipment was not being used properly, and that workers doing electrical testing lacked protective equipment. Inspectors saw improperly stored flammable materials; and noted that there were no sprinklers in a section of the plant where flammable adhesive was applied.

Company officials also failed to retrain an employee who had suffered hearing loss, and had failed to require workers exposed to dangerous noise levels to wear effective ear protection, the OSHA statement said.

TLD Ace has 15 days to comply with the orders, begin negotiations with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before an independent OSHA review panel.




DDS Vows Reforms After Death At Southbury Training School

by Categorized: Healthcare, Mental health and disability services Date:


Beverly Matakaetis does not want her brother’s death at the Southbury Training School on Nov. 2, 2012, to have been in vain.

Now there are signs that Jackie Kiley Jr.’s legacy could be one of reform.

The state agency overseeing the Southbury Training School has promised in a recent memo to make the improvements in medical care and quality control recommended by the Office of Protection & Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and that agency’s fatality-review panel.

The state Department of Developmental Services has been asked to update the fatality board on any reforms to medical care at Southbury by the fatality panel’s July 18 meeting.

Beverly Matakaetis and her husband, John, pressed the medical staff at Southbury, the state’s largest remaining residence and treatment center for developmentally disabled people, to improve Kiley’s care even as he got sicker and sicker in the fall of 2012. One year after his death, the state Department of Public Health faulted Southbury for its care of KIley — but the institution’s bland response floored the Matakaetises.

In May, the couple, of Newington, gave the fatality panel an account of Kiley’s last few months, and outlined what they felt was a convergence of medical errors and communication gaps on the part of Southbury’s medical staff. Afterward, the protection and advocacy office wrote a letter to Southbury, pointing out the serious questions that investigators and the fatality board had about Kiley’s treatment. Included were recommendations to prevent this from happening again.

DDS Commissioner Terrance W. Macy said in a June 3rd memo, obtained by The Courant Monday afternoon, that he has directed Southbury to establish procedures to “ensure that all of the recommendations made by the (fatality review board) are followed.”

Macy said the department takes “very seriously our responsibility to continuously review and seek to improve our supports to all of those we serve, but particularly, the medical care provided at Southbury Training School.”

When The Courant asked in May what DDS did in response to Kiley’s Death, a department spokeswoman said all of that information was confidential.








In Hartford, transparency has hollow ring

by Categorized: Workplace Safety Date:

Seizing on the story as a safety issue, the Courant filed a Freedom of Information request for the disciplinary record of city Firefighter Douglas Caldwell, who had racked up a string of on-duty, alcohol-related incidents.

The city corporation counsel’s office responded with an FOI acknowledgement letter on Feb. 26.

It was a straightforward, routine request to the administration of Mayor Pedro Segarra, who has said numerous times that he values transparency in public life.

After 10 weeks and dozens of follow-up emails, including 10 emails to Segarra’s spokeswoman, Fire Chief Carlos Huertas finally produced the file.

The paperwork was incomplete. The city’s response lacked any documentation of an on-duty incident involving Caldwell on Jan. 9, 2013, for which Caldwell was placed on paid administrative leave. The file also lacked two memos from other firefighters who stated, after Caldwell had been transferred to their shift, that he had allegedly threatened them in the past, and they could not work with him.

The memos and reports did lay out four on-duty, suspected alcohol incidents in two years, including three in seven months. 

Once the file was obtained, the Courant sent Huertas a list of questions that asked for the chief’s perspective on the Caldwell matter, how the drug & alcohol policy works, whether it was being enforced, and what explanation there might be for the repeated transgressions in this case.

The chief declined to address the questions. 

Friday, the Courant sought additional comment from Segarra on Caldwell’s off-duty arrest on Wednesday for public drinking at the Unity Plaza on Barbour Street.

A Segarra spokesman said the mayor was directing question to Chief Huertas.

Huertas said the department was doing an internal investigation. 





State falls behind on abuse registry

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

There’s only one way to be sure that a group-home worker fired for abusing an intellectually disabled resident isn’t hired by another group home that doesn’t know his background.

Put his name on the abuse/neglect registry, a black list created soley to prevent the spread of abuse.

But it only works if the names are actually placed on the list.

As of late 2013, there was a backlog of 182 cases in which a fired worker’s name had not been entered into the registry at the Department of Developmental Services, according to the report by the state Auditors of Public Accounts.

The names hadn’t been entered because the required hearing before DDS officials hadn’t been held. State law requires that, within 45 days after the worker is fired, DDS notify the worker that his name has been submitted for placement on the registry and that a hearing will be convened.

“Until the decision is rendered to place an employee on the registry, they can continue to work in the field of direct care, with another employer, potentially putting other clients at risk,’’ the report states.

The auditors said DDS was failing to monitor the pending registry cases, and that its method of gathering information on the behavior of workers for private contractors was “fragmented.”

In its response to the finding, the DDS said it has hired four people to work on reducing the backlog, and is establishing a single system to capture information on abuse and neglect.

Dr. Rashmi Patel: one death, one near death, in his dentist’s chair

by Categorized: Healthcare Date:

On Dec. 19, 2013, a sedated 55-year-old male patient, identified in records as J.S., nearly choked to death when he aspirated a throat pack while Dr. Rashmi Patel was extracting teeth. The patient was taken from Patel’s Enfield office to Bay State Medical Center in Springfield. He survived.

Two months later, on Feb. 17, a sedated 64- year-old female patient, Judith Gan of Ellington, stopped breathing and lapsed into cardiac arrest after Patel extracted 20 teeth and was working on implants.

According to the Department of Public Health investigation supporting the suspension of Patel’s license, he ignored pleas from his dental assistants to stop working and administer emergency medication to Gan. While he worked, the oxygen alarm tripped repeatedly as her oxygen levels and vital signs deteriorated, the DPH reported. A dental assistant, after being told to stop talking, ran from the room and dialed 911.

Gan, a former children’s librarian at Vernon and Hazardville schools, was transported to Bay State Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Patel had his license suspended April 21 and faces a June 18 hearing before the Connecticut State Dental Commission. He denies wrongdoing.

In September 2011, a Litchfield Superior Court jury awarded another Patel patient, Doreen Jasonis, $442,000 in a malpractice case. Jasonis alleged that Patel severely damaged her teeth and mouth in a reconstructive procedure. Jasonis, at the time, was working for Patel. He said he wanted to do the procedure as a wedding present. What she got, according to trial testimony, was years of pain. In 2012, after Patel’s lawyers appealed the verdict, the case was withdrawn and both sides settled for an undisclosed amount.

Tory Westbrook’s final act

by Categorized: Healthcare, Justice Date:

Medical regulators will likely take the last step to end Tory Westbrook’s squandered medical career when they take up on Tuesday his request to surrender his physician’s license.

Westbrook, 45, of Glastonbury, was convicted of sexually assaulting 18 women who were his patients at the Community Health Center in Clinton or clients of his laser hair-removal business in Manchester. His sentencing is set for Sept. 19. It is expected that he will receive a prison term of 14 years, and he’ll be required to register as a sex offender when he gets out.

On May 9, facing a license revocation hearing before the state Medical Examining Board, he signed an affidavit voluntarily giving up his license. Board members are expected to accept the surrender and withdraw the four-count statement of charges against him. The license surrender was part of his agreement with the criminal prosecutor.  

Westbrook is the subject of more than a dozen civil lawsuits from women he was convicted of violating. The charges contained in the medical board documents, which mirror the criminal investigation, make for a tragic and repulsive refrain.

“On or about June 2, 2011, respondent performed an examination of Patient 3, during which he engaged in inappropriate physical and/or sexual contact with her,” reads count three of the board’s charges.



Doctor with previous discipline faces fine for poor diabetes treatment

by Categorized: Healthcare Date:

A Norwich doctor faces a $5,000 fine for sub-standard care of four diabetes patients over a four-year period, according to a settlement proposed by the state Department of Public Health.

DPH inspectors said that from 2008 to 2012, Dr. Helar Campos failed to guide or monitor his patients in the use of their insulin pump, and delegated his education and monitoring responsibilities to unlicensed employees in his office.

Campos, who practices in Norwich and New London, also neglected to talk to his patients about diet and nutrition, failed to refer one or more patients for monitoring of diabetic retinopathy, a degenerative eye disease common in people with diabetes, or coordinate care with the patients’ other specialists, according to inspection records. .

DPH began its latest review of Campos after a doctor at the Joslin Diabetes Center in New Britain complained about the quality of care that several of Campos’ patients had received.

The state Medical Examining Board will consider the proposed fine and other discipline — including a year’s probation, remedial coursework, and random reviews of patient care — at its next meeting on Tuesday.

Campos in 2012 was fined $7,000 for “inappropriately permitting” medical assistants in his office to administer flu shots to patients, and failing to document in patient medical records that it wasn’t Campos who had given the shots.





Southington home-health care agency surrenders license

by Categorized: Healthcare Date:

Huemanity Home Care of Connecticut, located in the Milldale section of Southington, has surrendered its operating license after racking up a list of violations that took health inspectors 65 pages to document.

The deficiencies included unqualified personnel in administrative positions, the lack of a full-time clinical director, extensive gaps in medical record keeping and discharge planning, medication errors, and fundamental flaws in wound treatment, fall protection, pain management, and other aspects of patient care.

Nurses also failed to specify the tasks of the home-health aides, and the inspectors with the state Department of Public Health questioned whether the aides were “functioning outside the scope of their practice.”

The DPH examiners cited instances in which patients were being treated at home by nurses and aides with no doctor’s orders or discharge instructions from the hospital. In one case, after an inspector inquired, physician’s orders were faxed to the agency — three months after services to the patient were concluded.

The violations were discovered during multiple inspections of business records in August and September 2013. 

The owners of Huemanity Home Care chose to voluntarily surrender the operating license on May 5, according to DPH records. The surrender constitutes discipline against the agency and was reported to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank, DPH said.