The Boston Globe had a sad but enlightening story about how nursing homes cover up residents’ injuries caused by neglect and short-staffing. The article discusses the tragic case of Mary Meuse who was neglected at Woodbriar Health Center which is owned and operated by Synergy Health Centers.
A certified nursing assistant using a mechanical lift to move Meuse from her bed to a wheelchair Christmas morning violated a cardinal safety rule, according to a former Woodbriar staffer and a report the nursing home filed with Massachusetts regulators. Mechanical lifts require at least two people for safe operation, according to the Food and Drug Administration. But the 21-year-old nursing aide, with no assistance, improperly placed Meuse in the lift, according to the report, and Meuse slipped out, crashed to the ground, and broke both legs.
Meuse’s daughter, Brenda Murray, said her younger sister, Sandra, visited the nursing home late Christmas afternoon and was assured by a staffer that X-rays taken after the accident showed no broken bones.
“We were told everything was OK,” Murray said. It wasn’t until her phone rang at 8 a.m. the next day that she was told by a nursing home worker Meuse was in considerable pain and needed to go to the hospital immediately, Murray said.
Meuse, who was on blood-thinning medication for heart problems, was not sent to a hospital until the next day. By then, she was bleeding internally. She died in the hospital Dec. 27. Meuse’s death certificate states she died from “complications of blunt force trauma” and pointed out that she was on blood-thinning medications for heart problems. The certificate noted that Meuse died as a direct result of her injuries.
The nursing home has been cited by state inspectors for a number of problems, including crumbling plaster, cracked tiles, or clogged drains in nearly half of the bedrooms inspected in August, according to federal records. Those same records show that the wrong urinary catheters were ordered for one patient and that a nurse failed to wash her hands before giving medicine to another patient.
Synergy bought its first Massachusetts nursing home in December 2012, and reports of substandard care — festering pressure sores, medication errors, poor infection control, inadequate training, and short-staffing — have mounted. The company now owns 11 facilities in the state, licensed to care for more than 1,200 residents.
Serious injuries and deaths from falls in nursing homes are not unique to Synergy-owned facilities. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 1,800 deaths every year involving nursing home residents who fell.
But Woodbriar stands out, with nearly twice the state and national averages for the percent of falls resulting in major injuries among long-term residents, according to the latest data from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The federal data rates a nursing home on the total hours worked by all of its nurses in the two weeks before its last inspection, and on this measure Woodbriar rates above average. But the data also show that the nursing home is “well below” the average for the number of hours worked by registered nurses, which can lead to issues regarding leadership and decision-making. Registered nurses receive substantially more training and education than other nurses and are generally expected to do more critical thinking on the job.