Today we have a guest writer, Heather Johnson. who is a regular contributor to RNCentral.com, a great site for nurses and others interested in the nursing field.  We thank Heather for help insightful contribution.  Below is her entry.

Nursing Home Workers Face Neglect, Fraud Charges

Chicago Sun-Times reports that Nurse Marty Himebaugh and nursing director Penny Whitlock of a Woodstock, Illinois nursing home have been charged with criminal neglect of their patients and fraud. Police are currently investigating the deaths of six patients, which may be related to Himebaugh’s reputation for playing "Angel of Death" to her patients. Allegedly, she gave patients overdoses of morphine when she worked at the nursing home and Whitlock failed to reprimand her.

Complaints had been filed against Himebaugh many times before she was eventually put on leave from her job in 2006. Some allege that Whitlock not only failed to discipline Himebaugh in a timely manner, she could have been encouraging the illegal actions. Authorities exhumed the bodies of three patients to determine if they had died as a result of an overdose, though results have not been made public.

In addition to criminal neglect, Whitlock has been charged with obstruction of justice after she allegedly ordered the destruction of drugs in the nursing home. Himebaugh also faces additional charges for fraudulently obtaining and illegally dispensing morphine. Police are not expected to file any more criminal charges against current or former employees of the nursing home.

According to attorney Steven Levin, who was hired by the family of an alleged victim, "It was flat out an attempt to kill people. I mean we don’t kill old people in nursing homes in this country."

By-line:

Heather Johnson is a freelance writer as well as a regular contributor for RNCentral.com, a site which covers all things related to RN. Heather welcomes your comments and emails related to job inquiries at her email address, heatherjohnson2323@gmail.com.

Arizona Daily Star reported an investigation into the lack of investigation of neglect and abuse in Arizona nursing homes.  The investigation was bold and tragic and led to the reopeing of several complaints, and the conclusion that Arizona fails to protect elderly and vulnerable nursing home residents.  Below are excerpts from the story and investigation.

tAnita McEvoy put her 92-year-old mother in a Tucson nursing home so she wouldn’t get hurt as Alzheimer’s disease took its toll. Instead, her mother shivered in bed while nursing aides took no notice. She died of hypothermia complications.

Another elderly woman, who couldn’t see well and trusted nursing aides to bathe her, did not know they used a cell phone camera to photograph her in the shower, then went to the nursing station to show the photos and laugh about them with others.

And in a third local nursing home, a nursing aide assigned to feed a confused, 84-pound woman withheld a drink and demanded that the woman say "please" and "thank you," laughing while the woman kept asking: "What do you want? Who the hell are you?"

These cases and others over the past three years have this in common: State regulators did nothing about them.   Until Friday — when investigators reopened one of the cases as a direct result of the Star’s questions.   The inspectors showed a consistent pattern of weak enforcement.
Only 15 percent of the time did they substantiate allegations of abuse, neglect or other problems in how the homes cared for some of our most vulnerable people.

The Star reviewed nearly 1,000 citations for safety problems and more than 1,100 complaints of poor care to the Arizona Department of Health Services in Pima County’s 22 nursing homes in the three years ending in 2007.  The review mirrors what federal auditors have found nationally: State inspectors miss violations, underrate the severity of the offenses, and allow homes to yo-yo in and out of compliance.

The Star’s investigation also reveals:
● The state blew its own investigation deadlines in three out of every four cases, often compromising the findings because patients and staff members are no longer around. The median case is 72 days late.
● The state doesn’t give you enough information to determine whether a home is giving consistently good care. The public can’t see the patient’s side of any given complaint. You can’t see reports the nursing homes make when a patient is harmed. And the only snapshot of how a home is performing is up to 18 months old in some cases.
● The state fined poorly performing homes only 24 times in three years, even though it wrote 958 citations. Until recently, the fines were typically so small that even your next-door neighbor could pay them — usually not much more than $1,000.
● Unlike other states that have set precise staffing standards, Arizona adheres to a vague requirement of "sufficient" staffing. That standard, set by the federal government 20 years ago, is notoriously difficult to assess.
● Unlike doctors, nursing homes don’t have to disclose if they’ve paid out judgments or settlements. Dozens of cases have been settled secretly. It could become even harder to learn about improper care, because homes are getting patients to promise not to sue if something goes wrong.
● Because the state rarely substantiates complaints, sometimes staffers who are fired at one nursing home after being accused of abuse or neglect can be hired right away at another.

 

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WBLT in Jackson, Ms. has an article about a resident who was so neglected in her diabetic monitoring that she will now lose her leg.  Below are excerpts from the article.

A nursing home’s responsibility is to care for those in need.  On Friday, March 28, Willie Mae Coleman was admitted to University Medical Center in Jackson for gangrene. Her left leg will be amputated.   The family blames the Pine Crest Guest Home for neglecting to give her mother the care she needed.

"It could have been avoided if her leg had been properly elevated and proper procedure would have been done," she says. "It wouldn’t have come to her having surgery."

"I think vascular disease is always preventative on several levels," said Coleman’s doctor, Huey McDaniels.

Sandra says although her mother was admitted to UMC on Friday, nobody from the nursing home that brought her here notified them. In fact, her family didn’t know she was there until Sunday. Sandra says her siblings went to visit Coleman at Pine Crest Guest Home on Sunday, but Coleman wasn’t there. That’s how they found out she was in the hospital. 

Sandra Coleman says there’s no excuse for allowing her mother to get to a point where amputation is the only option.

"If it’s happening to us, it could be happening to others there, too," said Sandra.