The West Virginia Record reported on a lawsuit by the estate administrator against Saddle Shop Road Operations LLC, which does business as Hilltop Center, Genesis Healthcare Corp. and Brian Chapman, alleging that the deceased, Harold Gene Nutter, received improper care while he was a resident of the Hilltop Center nursing facility.

Estate administrator Charles Fitzwater filed a complaint May 3 in Fayette Circuit Court, alleging that Nutter suffered serious and permanent injuries on May 8, 2017 that resulted in his death.

Fitzwater also alleges that Nutter’s surviving family members have suffered sorrow, mental anguish and loss of society, companionship, comfort and guidance, as a result of the negligence of the defendants in providing inadequate health care and protective and support services to the decedent.

Specifically, the plaintiff claims the defendants failed to employ a sufficient number of staff and failed to ensure that residents received the proper care, treatment, hydration and hygiene requirements.

The plaintiff requests a trial by jury and seeks a judgment against defendants for damages, attorney’s fees, costs and expenses, punitive damages and other relief that the court deems just. He is represented by Jonathan R. Mani of Mani, Ellis & Layne PLLC in Charleston.

Signature Healthcare is a national for-profit nursing home chain with more than two dozen facilities in Tennessee.  The government started an investigation in 2014 when two whistleblowers started collecting evidence on their own.  LeeAnn Holt and Kristi Emerson, both of whom are occupational therapists from Columbia, collected reams of anecdotes — in part, because they were concerned they might get in trouble themselves.  That evidence is the basis of the $30 million settlement in the Medicare fraud case between the federal government and Louisville-based Signature Healthcare, which operates more than 100 facilities in 17 states.

According to court documents, state and federal investigators discovered Signature was “knowingly submitting false claims to Medicare for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable or necessary” at 115 of its facilities. Investigators said that led to a total of $232 million in false claims. The company also allegedly forged documents submitted to Tennessee’s Medicaid or Tenncare program, leading to another $12 million in fraudulent reimbursements.  So they stole $232 million but only had to pay a settlement of $30 million.  Who says crime doesn’t pay?

The complaint against Signature Healthcare (download here) accuses the company of systematically administering occupational, physical and speech therapy when it wasn’t warranted and withholding care when government reimbursements were already maxed out. According to the suit, the unnecessary therapy pushed patients into a category where the facility was reimbursed more per day for those patients, often hitting precisely the 720-minute per week threshold for maximum payment.  Holt and Kristi Emerson are the whistle-blowers who exposed a company-wide system of over-billing the federal government by Signature Healthcare.

“There were a couple of times when things happened with patients where we would just look at each other and say, ‘We can’t do this. We just cannot do this any more,'” LeeAnn Holt recalled.  Holt recalls a patient with advanced cancer who just wanted to spend time with her family rather than continue with therapy.

“She just put her hand on the therapist and said, ‘Honey, you need to go work with somebody that can really benefit from this.’ And you know, when you have a patient that is telling you that, you really have to stop and take inventory of what is going on here.”

Emerson says she hopes the case will still inspire other health care workers to push back when they feel pressured to do procedures they deem medically unnecessary.

“We can’t just blame these corporations for all of this,” she says. “We have to shoulder as therapists some of the responsibility because we’ve allowed this to get this bad.”

The women say before filing their suit, they repeatedly went to administrators all the way up to the corporate office.

“And no one was doing anything. And the more we reported, the more they came in and just started pushing back on us,” Emerson explained.

Emerson and Holt were let go amid the investigation and have found it difficult to find stable work. “No one really wants a whistleblower in their building,” Emerson says.

But now they will split roughly $6 million as their share of the settlement. Whistleblowers are entitled to 15 percent to 25 percent of the total.

 

Newson6 reported on a resident’s family seeking answers in a lawsuit against Grace Living Center. Twila Knight was 57 when she checked in at Grace Living Center to recover from a fall.  At the facility, Twila suffered from falls, custodial neglect, and a pressure ulcer injury.  The family of a former resident is suing Grace Living Center claiming the staff failed to monitor, treat, diagnose and care for their loved one.

The center’s Medicare health inspection rating is one out of five stars.  The health inspection report shows the rating is the lowest possible score. And it’s rate of long-stay patients developing pressure ulcers is 12.6 percent more than double the national average.

Knight’s family is suing the nursing home for negligence claiming the staff also failed to properly treat bed sores she got in their care. The family is also claiming the staff was verbally abusive and failed to address her dietary needs, weight loss, and medication needs.

“There has to be special mattresses put in place, there has to be turning that’s done, you have to make sure that people are getting up,” said the family’s attorney Mark Edwards.

“We rely on these places to take care of our most fragile. And what’s happening is we have businesses that are putting profits over people,” said Edwards.

 

Bridgeport Health Care Center Inc., a Connecticut nursing home sued by the federal government over allegations it diverted millions of dollars from the company’s retirement plan to itself and to a Brooklyn-based Jewish nonprofit, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, WSJ Pro Bankruptcy reported.  Em Kol Chai, a New York religious corporation that lists Stern as its president and trustee on its certificate of incorporation received millions of dollars.

Bridgeport, which filed for chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Bridgeport, Conn., listed Brooklyn-based health-care company Caretech Supplies Inc., with a $4.2 million claim, as its largest unsecured creditor. The Internal Revenue Service, owed $3.3 million, is listed second, followed by People’s United Bank, located in Bridgeport, owed $2.3 million. All the claims are disputed. The Labor Department sued Bridgeport and its chief financial officer in September 2016, claiming they diverted millions of dollars from the company’s retirement plan improperly to a religious corporation and to themselves.

Commercial Appeal reported on the lawsuit unsealed in federal court in Memphis alleging that Spring Gate Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center nursing home gave heavy anti-psychotic drugs to residents to keep them “docile.”  The complaint alleging Medicaid and Medicare fraud by the facility argued that the company provided “worthless” services to residents between 2012 and 2015. Now the company will pay a $500,000 settlement, and has entered into an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent such conduct in the future, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

According to the lawsuit, Spring Gate, operated by Memphis Operator, LLC, prescribed a resident heavy doses of anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety drugs in 2013 “despite the fact that there was never a medically accepted indication justifying such heavy-duty medications.”

“After Spring Gate prescribed these psychoactive drugs, (her) condition quickly deteriorated,” according to the complaint. “Spring Gate internal reports described her as confused and unsteady, prone to staring off into space. She fell multiple times …”

Her nephew raised concerns to Spring Gate and “to his great surprise, the nursing staff openly admitted to (him) that (she) was being prescribed these drugs ‘to keep her in the bed,'” according to the lawsuit.

The Sun Sentinel reported the trauma suffered by first responders to Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center after Hurricane Irma. Many are still haunted by the dying nursing home residents they tried to save as they sweltered in a building with no air conditioning.  Some reported that it was cooler outside the nursing home than inside where the residents struggled to breathe in the heat.

“In a span of about three hours on Sept. 13, the Hollywood firefighter/paramedic and fellow crew members treated two critically ill residents. They had trouble breathing and registered body temperatures of 107.5 degrees. When the paramedics returned to the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center for a third time that day, they found the head nurse performing CPR on a dead male patient.

The lack of care that these people were experiencing and just the conditions they were experiencing,” Wohlitka said. “In all honesty, this call is still very much haunting.”

Wohlitka and other fire-rescue workers who responded to the nursing home testified in court. This is the first time the rescue workers who responded to the nursing home where 12 ultimately died have publicly given their accounts of what they saw during those deadly pre-dawn hours.  It was part of a series of hearings this week to determine whether the nursing home should be allowed to re-open. The nursing home is challenging the state’s move to revoke its license.

After finding the dead man, the crew decided to check out other residents. Wohlitka said he noticed a woman inside her room looked “unwell” from where he stood in the hallway. He tried to figure out if she was OK, but nursing home staff insisted they had already done their round of checks.  “I attempted to enter the room and evaluate her and I was stopped by a Hollywood Hills staff member who basically told me that they had just done rounds and everybody was fine,” he testified. “I asked her, ‘Are you sure? That woman doesn’t look good’ and she said, ‘No, she just looks like that.’

“I just felt bad for that woman,” Wohlitka said. “You beat yourself up and maybe I should have told that facility member ‘no,’ but an RN is higher than a firefighter and a paramedic. We had no reason to doubt her.”

But eventually the paramedics did doubt the competency of the nursing home staff.  “I believe that they were panicked, that they were overwhelmed by the amount of patients that we were deeming critical,” Parrinello testified.

 

As she tried checking on patients’ vital signs, she said the head nurse told her that his staff had already done that. Parrinello testified that at this point she doubted the staff had been truthful about their assessment of patients. She said she told the head nurse: ’Well, you told me that before and now we have multiple deceased patients. So, with all due respect, I don’t trust your judgment and we’re going to check everyone ourselves.’

Ultimately, a dozen residents died from heat exposure and the medical examiner determined their deaths to be homicides.

Said Wohlitka, the firefighter/paramedic: “The uncomfortable heat alone was unbearable for myself, I won’t speak for anybody else. I was very uncomfortable inside the facility; I can only imagine what somebody who wasn’t able to go outside or get out was dealing with. I think it’s pretty evident… it just wasn’t safe.”

The Times-Standard reported another wrongful death lawsuit against a Brius Healthcare Services-owned nursing home Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center.  The lawsuit involves the neglect of a resident which caused a build-up of fecal matter in her digestive tract so large that it resembled an “eight-month pregnant uterus” by the time it was removed in April 2017.  The nursing home failed to monitor dementia patient Jeannette Sharp’s bowel movements as was directed in her care plan or failed to notify a physician about her lack of bowel movements.

“The operating physicians captured 3-4 liters of fecal matter from Ms. Sharp’s colon with more spilling into her abdominal cavity,” court documents state. “Because of the severity of her fecal impaction, Mrs. Sharp died shortly after the surgery.”  The lawsuit stated the buildup of fecal matter occurred over a period of months and eventually blocked the exit from Sharp’s stomach.

“Jeannette was in excruciating pain yet was not provided pain relief,” Janssen Malloy’s first amended complaint states. “No one gave Ms. Sharp an enema or checked to see why her stomach was distended.”

This is a great example of how mismanagement and “related party transactions” affect the quality of care for nursing home residents.  Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, Granada’s administrator Alice Brasier, Brius Healthcare Services, Brius’ related administrative company Rockport Healthcare Services, Brius CEO Shlomo Rechnitz and other companies associated with Rechnitz are named as defendants in the lawsuit, according to court documents.

 

The New York Post reported that New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a settlement with a shady real-estate group that bought city nursing homes and flipped them to developers who sought to convert them into luxury condos.  The settlement between the attorney general and The Allure Group includes measures to reform the process that led to the closure of Rivington House on the Lower East Side and CABS Nursing Home in Brooklyn — in addition to levying $2 million in penalties to the developers, Schneiderman said.

“We’re requiring Allure to open new health-care facilities in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, and make major improvements to its Harlem facility, while also providing $1.25 million to nonprofits serving vulnerable New Yorkers.”

As part of the settlement, Allure must create a new health facility on the Lower East Side to “fill health-care gaps caused by the closure of Rivington House,” Schneiderman said.

After purchasing the CABS nursing home in Bed-Stuy in 2015, Allure allegedly forced out frail patients — leading to the untimely deaths of some residents, according to a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court. The court papers charge that Allure repeatedly lied during the bidding process.

The settlement with the attorney general also requires Allure to open a “new Central Brooklyn health-care facility to offset lost health care services resulting from the closing of the CABS Nursing Home.”

 

Virginia Santillan is suing Manning Gardens Care Center for elder abuse, neglect and violation of patient rights after the nursing home  dumped her outside her home where she had been found soiled with vomit and feces, with cockroaches crawling on her and maggots in a wound on her right foot.

According to Santillan’s lawsuit, Manning Gardens made no arrangements to make sure she would have appropriate care before calling a transport company to take her home last Nov. 7.   Under state law, nursing home residents have the right to a 30-day notice of a discharge, the date of the discharge, the location of where they are being sent, sufficient preparation and orientation at the discharge location to ensure a safe and orderly transfer and to be given information of their right to appeal the discharge and help in submitting an appeal. The lawsuit says the home failed to prepare a safe and orderly discharge plan.

In addition to the alleged illegal eviction, Santillan says the nursing home failed to provide adequate care and did not protect her from a male resident of the nursing home who she says preyed upon and stalked her, violating her privacy and dignity.

The home was cited three times this year for improper patient transfers by the California Department of Public Health, which investigates nursing home complaints.

In Santillan’s case, the state fined Manning Gardens $20,000. State records show Manning Gardens also was cited for the improper transfer of an 82-year-old man who fell and broke a hip after being sent to a facility that was not equipped to take care of his needs. And in a similar case, the state said a man was sent to a facility that could not provide the 24-hour care he required to remain safe. In each case of the two cases involving men, the state fined the nursing home $2,000.

HCR ManorCare, one of the largest U.S. nursing home operators, has a deadline tomorrow in a dispute over unpaid rent, a growing problem in an industry where eviction would put thousands of elderly out on the street.  In a lawsuit filed in August, HCR ManorCare’s landlord, Quality Care Properties Inc, said the chain owes more than $300 million in rent at its 292 skilled nursing and assisted living locations.  Many nursing home chains spun off their properties to real estate companies over the last decade to siphon money and increase profits.  ManorCare is the largest senior housing chain in financial distress but other over leveraged chains are losing profits because of mismanagement, declining reimbursements, higher management costs, and increased federal scrutiny over improper billing.

ManorCare must respond tomorrow.  Generally, a landlord can evict a tenant who fails to pay rent.

“However, because the leased properties care for approximately 30,000 patients – many of whom are elderly, vulnerable and require specialized care – abrupt eviction could cause substantial harm,” Quality Care said in its lawsuit, filed in California state court on August 17.

With more skilled nursing facilities defaulting on leases, property owners are increasingly looking to receiverships as an alternative to evictions or bankruptcy, lawyers and advisers told Reuters.

A receiver can ensure continuity of care for patients and residents while preparing the facility for a transition to a new owner or operator. The process is cheaper and more stable than bankruptcy proceedings.