SavaSeniorCare is one the biggest and most profitable nursing home chains in the U.S owned and operated by entities controlled by New York tycoons Murray Forman and Leonard Grunstein.  Last week, a jury in Colorado punished the billion dollar chain with a verdict of $3.7 million. $3.5 million in punitive damages against Belmont Lodge Health Care Center and $200,000 to be awarded to Margaret Smith for her pain and suffering.
See articles at KOAA, The Denver Channel, and KRDO.

Sava run Belmont Lodge Health Care Center in Pueblo caused the wrongful death of 88-year-old Janet Smith in May 2011.  Smith served as a nurse in World War II and the Korean War.  Denver-based attorney Jordan Levine represented Smith’s daughter, Margaret, who sued after her mother’s condition rapidly deteriorated resulting in her death shortly after entering Belmont Lodge for rehabilitation of two broken ankles in April 2011. As a result, she was outfitted with a foley catheter so that she could urinate.  Defendants’ reckless conduct and neglect related to the monitoring and care for that catheter by Belmont Lodge staff led to a severe urinary tract infection, resulting in Janet’s death.

 

 

 

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Kaiser Health News had an interesting article on attempts to provide a living wage to home health workers.  Close to 2 million in-home care workers and personal care aides in the United States don’t always get paid for overtime work or receive minimum wage, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.  The average yearly salary for home health aides in 2012 was only $21,830, according to the Labor Department.

In December, 2011, President Obama proposed a revision to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would extend both overtime and minimum wage protections to home-care workers employed by third parties, such as home care agencies.

“The (current) rules don’t really reflect the job being done by home health aides and home care aides,” said Steven Edelstein, the national policy director of PHI National, a nonprofit group that aims to improve working conditions for direct-care workers. “When the (companion services) exception was first created, they were looking to provide an exception to friends and neighbors who would be helping out, not a situation where people are making their livelihood by providing long term services and support.”

The demand for home health aides is expected to increase by 69 percent between 2010 and 2020, PHI estimates, and is potentially fueled by ongoing efforts to keep seniors and the disabled out of nursing homes.

 

 

In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, the man charged with killing 29 patients attempted to explain the reason behind his murderous spree. Charles Cullen was charged with 29 deaths, but he claims to have killed 40 patients total. Some believe this is a conservative estimate and that he may be responsible for as many as 400 deaths.

So why did the man who might be the most prolific killer in American history commit these crimes? He now claims that they were mercy killings, that he felt compelled to end patients’ suffering. How ridiculous.  Who gave him the right to play God?

Most of his victims were not even close to death. When reminded of this, Cullen says that there is ‘no justification’ and that he ‘felt compelled at the time.’  Cullen did express remorse for his crimes, but stated that had he not been caught, he wasn’t sure that he would have stopped. Cullen admits to killing 40 patients at nine hospitals and a nursing home. See article at Daily Mall.

Cincinnati.com reported that a nursing home resident with an extensive criminal history is accused of raping another resident inside her room this week. Edward C. White, 57, was arrested on one count of rape.  Springfield Township police charged White with forcing himself on the woman at the Heartland of Mount Airy.  The victim told him “no,” and “stop,” the arrest report states.

White has an extensive criminal record dating back at least 30 years in Hamilton County.
He has been charged with four violent felonies including attempted murder, four other felonies and 13 misdemeanors.   He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 1981 and served three years in a prison. He returned to prison four other times between 1988 and 2002 following convictions for aggravated assault, forgery and illegally having a gun, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The for-profit nursing home is owned by Toledo-based HCR Manor Care. The company operates more than 500 nursing homes and rehabilitation centers nationwide and has 60,000 employees, according to the company’s web site. It was purchased by private equity company Carlyle Group in 2007.
 

Well, it all depends on the number of residents and the condition of those residents.  Patients in hospitals and residents in nursing homes are much sicker than they used to be and require much more complex care.  Legislatures in at least seven states and the District of Columbia are trying to answer that question as they debate bills that would require a minimum number of nurses on staff at all times.  At the heart of all these bills is a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio — a fixed number of nurses per patient.

California is the only state that has a minimum nurse staffing law.  Since then, nurse staffing laws have failed in every other state because industry lobbyists intimidate politicians. Many nurses and experts say legislation is needed to prevent cost-conscious hospitals from endangering patients by putting too large of a workload on too few nurses.  Short-staffings leads to burn-out, abuse, and neglect.

A 2004 survey of research conducted by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that patients at hospitals with low nurse-to-patient ratios fare worse than those at hospitals with higher ratios.

 

The Tennessean reported that National Health Investors which owns the national for-profit nursing home chain National Health Care settled with two nonprofit entities they created and to which they were accused of selling nursing homes at inflated prices.  In the suit the court-appointed receiver filed, the company was accused of selling failed or foreclosed homes that owed it money at inflated prices to the nonprofits it formed to maximize recovery of the loans, instead of selling the facilities on the open market.

The settlement resolves the legal dispute over fairness of the deals under which the nursing homes were sold by Murfreesboro-based NHI to the nonprofits and eventually managed by National Healthcare Corp.  The nonprofits paid more than what the homes were worth.  The settlements are designed to help reduce the nonprofits’ debt to NHI. NHI will lease the facilities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to NHC, which “manages” them for the nonprofit.

A Davidson County chancery judge will likely decide how to dole out $40 million in settlement money to select charities across Tennessee that will result largely from a court-appointed receiver’s sale of 14 nursing homes and other assets of the nonprofits, which are SeniorTrust of Florida Inc. and ElderTrust of Florida Inc.”

Both NHI, a real estate investment trust, and NHC, a nursing homes operator, are publicly traded companies headquartered in Murfreesboro. Along with the $44 million from NHI’s settlement of the previous dispute that involved nonprofit Care Foundation of America, the amount going to charities statewide should rise to $84 million.

 

Consumer advocate and nursing home expert Brian Lee wrote a guest column for Florida’s Herald Tribune on the new tort reform measures to protect the nursing home industry.  Below are some excerpts.

In his recent guest column, “Nursing home articles disputed,” the nursing home industry’s lead lobbyist and spokesperson, Emmett Reed, claimed that he would “set the record straight” on Senate Bill 1384 — an awful bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano.

Unfortunately, Reed never actually got to the record.

Instead of presenting clear and convincing evidence on how this legislation would benefit residents, he has offered obfuscations shrouded in a great deal of industry spin.

First, Reed claims that his bill will “continue” to “ensure” that nursing homes are held to the “highest standards.”

That is simply not true.

Not a single line, phrase or word — not even a comma — in the bill addresses the standard of care. Does Reed’s definition of “highest standard” recognize the 17,021 deficiencies cited at Florida nursing homes, 50 percent of which were directly related to resident care, during the past three years, more than $4.6 million in federal fines against nursing homes in the state, and the fact that one in five nursing homes are so bad they are on the state’s notorious watch list? If this is Florida’s definition of “highest standard,” it is a sorry one.

Nurse hours at low level. Reed also states that nursing home residents are “receiving more time with nurses on a daily basis.” Also not true.

The latest federal staffing data compiled by independent sources (Online Survey, Certification and Reporting) show that Florida’s total nurse hours have dropped to their lowest levels in the last five years. Absolutely nothing in SB 1384 would guarantee higher staffing levels for residents.

Reed has the audacity to assert that injured residents and their personal injury lawyers deprive nursing homes of resources “devoted” to the care of residents. What? This makes no sense.  He is actually blaming victimized elderly and disabled adults who’ve suffered horrible and provable mistreatment at the hands of negligent caregivers.

Don’t they, like all Americans, have the right to seek redress through the courts and to pursue punitive damages in horrific cases? This bill only addresses serious cases involving care that is so bad, it rises to the level of punitive conduct. We are not talking slip-and-fall cases. We are talking about cases of physical abuse, sexual assault, chronic and purposeful understaffing, fraudulent behavior by owners and a host of other very bad acts.

As the profits of nursing homes soar to record levels, as the publicly traded stocks of nursing homes outpace the Dow Jones Industrial Average by a 2-to-1 ratio, and as per-bed prices of homes in Florida soar to new levels, staffing levels are dropping. Yet SB 1384 says, according to the testimony we heard from experts, thta the corporate owners can never be punished in court?

He says this despite the facts that the nursing home industry’s own actuarial report (published annually by Aon, a risk-management firm and insurer) clearly and repeatedly states that the frequency of lawsuits in Florida have “steeply declined” and that “loss costs per bed have dramatically decreased.” Things are so good for nursing homes here in the Sunshine State that Florida is no longer listed among the problem states — and, to repeat, this is a report from Reed’s own people.

This contrived “lawsuit problem” devised through Senate Bill 1384 is smoke and mirrors meant to financially benefit owners who cause serious harm to residents in lieu of improving care for elderly and disabled residents.

That’s the real story.

And as for the personal attacks against me, they don’t warrant a response because, as the old saying goes, words will never harm me.

But when it comes to harm, the real harm is what his association is pushing before this Legislature with Senate Bill 1384.

Brian Lee is executive director of Families for Better Care, based in Tallahassee. Web: www.familiesforbettercare.com

 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the recent $700,000 verdict against Normandy Nursing Center after the jury found the facility responsible for the death of a resident who overdosed on morphine he was never prescribed.  William Christopher Jones died in a hospital after being found unresponsive at the Normandy Nursing Center in August 2009.

Toxicology tests showed a lethal level of morphine. It remains unclear how the morphine got into Jones’ system.  Was it negligence or a homicide?  Normandy police investigated Jones’ death but could not file any charges because the nursing home’s morphine supply was accounted for. Obviously, the nursing home’s records are not accurate.

Teresa Bartosiak, a St. Louis attorney for the nursing home at 7301 St. Charles Rock Road, said the damages would be reduced to $350,000 under a Missouri malpractice cap. She said the decision would be appealed despite the fact that the verdict will be cut in half.

 

 

Attorney John Hawkins who was a former legislator in SC recently wrote an editorial explaining how “tort reform” creates injustices in our legal system.  Below are excerpts but see the full editorial at Spartanburg Herald.

“The Cleveland Park train wreck case is a painful reminder of why so-called “tort reform” doesn’t work. Under current law, no matter how many people get killed or injured in a single catastrophic incident due to the government’s negligence, the total liability for all victims is $600,000.

This law is an example of tort reform. This newspaper, which has advocated tort reform before, is correct in arguing that the limit needs to be raised to help the victims of the train wreck.

But it cannot stop there. We cannot raise the limit for just one group of victims while ignoring other horrible cases that have not received the same degree of publicity.

As an attorney representing injured people in the Upstate for almost 20 years, I have seen too many cases where limits on liability have resulted in gross injustice. I represented a man who lost his beloved wife to a drunken driver, only to have his loss mocked by the state’s ridiculously low requirements for how much liability insurance people are required to carry. I could cite other cases involving catastrophic injuries where the insurance limits of the at-fault party were not anywhere near enough to pay for the medical bills.

Setting arbitrary limits on liability will always result in certain terrible injustices. The train wreck, horrific as it is, is just one of many situations where wrongdoers are allowed to escape responsibility for their actions due to the government granting them immunity of some kind.

At its essence, tort reform is merely the government picking winners and losers in the American justice system. The winners are those whose negligence kills, injures, maims and devastates. The losers are the many families who find themselves unlucky enough to have been injured by a specially protected class of wrongdoers.”

Below is a reader’s response and Hawkin’s reply from his blog.

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WISTV reported on another tragic case of neglect here in South Carolina. David Christmas lost his mother six months ago. He had spent years caring for her at his home before trusting Kingstree Nursing Facility to take care of her.   But they did not take care of her.  Instead, his mother ended up in a hospital bed with a broken hip with bruises from head to toe.   “My mother was placed on May the 7th of 2012,” said Christmas, “and on Oct. 17th of 2012, she was dead.”  Kingstree police investigated the assault to figure out what happened. Christmas says his mother told him she was attacked. All she could tell him was it was by two women.

The nursing home refuses to tell the family what happened.  And DHEC won’t substantiate anything.  WISTV attempted to review DHEC records.  “We went to DHEC to see if we could look at some inspection records. We signed in and were directed to the agency’s Freedom of Information Office where staffers asked us to file a formal request for some specific records
DHEC doesn’t post the records online.”