Tennessee nursing homes are seeking unprecedented legal protection from residents who are abused or neglected. Politicians influenced by nursing home lobbyist campaign donations introduced a bill that would severely restrict the rights of nursing home victims to seek justice no matter how bad the injury they suffer and no matter how bad the conduct of the home.
NHC, which reported more than $500 million in annual gross profits in 2006 and whose CEO Robert G. Adams makes more than $1.3 million a year, pushed for the legislation. The legislation would ensure that:
Residents would have little to no recourse against nursing homes no matter how bad the conduct of a home.
Nursing homes can demand that residents sign arbitration agreements waiving their constitutional right to a jury trial in order to get medical care, making nursing home residents the least protected class in the state.
“This proposed legislation is a slap in the face to some of Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens – the residents of nursing homes and their families,” said Karla C. Hewitt, president of Tennessee Citizen Action, a grassroots consumer protection organization. “Nursing home residents are suffering. Inspectors have found residents with maggots in their wounds and broken bones that aren’t treated,” Hewitt continued. “And now this billion dollar industry wants to take away the rights of individual residents to sue? This shows how low the nursing homes will go to protect their shareholders’ profits.”
Though the multi-billion dollar nursing home industry complains of an epidemic of frivolous litigation, in fact only four verdicts were awarded against Tennessee nursing homes from 2005-2007. During that same period, nursing home admission suspensions tripled. In 2007, 22 nursing homes had their admissions suspended for putting their residents in “immediate jeopardy.” According to records at the Tennessee Department of Health, the 152 immediate jeopardy violations in those homes include reports of patients suffering the following:
Risk of injury or death by fire
Maggots in wound
Broken bones unattended for days
Drastic weight loss due to improper nutrition/oversight
Impacted bowels caused by inattention/oversight
Extreme pain with no relief
Fear of staff
In addition to these violations, a worker at a home in Madison was arrested in May 2007 for raping a 70-year-old resident.
The State of Tennessee allocates 99% of funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – more than $1 billion a year – to nursing homes and only 1% to home and community-based care.
About Tennessee Citizen Action (TNCA)
TNCA is Tennessee’s consumer watchdog organization working on behalf of a number of consumer protection issues, including patients’ rights; nursing home reform; quality health care; increased home- and community-based options with more consumer control; title lending; aftermath of sub-prime lending crisis; workplace health and safety; and voter education, registration, GOTV, problems with electronic voting and lack of a paper trail. TNCA is a grassroots citizen group based in Nashville seeking to build a unified movement for reform in Tennessee. TNCA works to create long-term political change by building diverse coalitions around our major issues. The organization actively works in coalition with a range of health care, environmental, government reform, and labor organizations. For more information, visit: http://www.tnca.org.
Tennessee Citizen Action
Shelby White, 615-327-7999