I read about a tragic incident in Ireland recently that reminded me of what goes on in some nursing homes everyday.  A nursing home resident was left strapped to a chair throughout their waking hours – and released only for toilet breaks.  The claim is among more than 400 complaints about care of the elderly in nursing homes logged by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) last year.

The unsolicited complaints were made to the HIQA by phone or in writing in the first 10 months of 2019. They paint a picture of shocking neglect and abuse of elderly residents.  There were numerous claims of residents falling owing to poor staffing or lack of appropriate care.

In other reports released under the Freedom of Information Act, complainants described residents being diagnosed with malnutrition, sitting in soiled clothes and being held against their will.

One disturbing complaint related to a resident who had suffered a fracture several years ago. “The resident is strapped into a chair throughout the day and is only released for toileting. The [concerned person] has also witnessed another resident strapped in the same manner without release.”

Another complaint along the same lines simply detailed “unexplained bruising and restraint”.

In one heart-rending complaint, a concerned person states they are being held in a nursing home “against their will”. “Concerned person wants to leave but does not know how to,” said the complainant, who appeared to be the nursing home resident.

In another nursing home, it was claimed residents had to “wait in a queue to be brought to the bathroom”.

 

The Daily News recently reported that disgraced nursing home owner and operator Avery Eisenreich and his family are trying to buy themselves back into the industry.  Alaris Health founder Avery Eisenreich and four members of his family each gave $2,000 to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ likely 2021 campaign for mayor.  As you may recall, Eisenreich was violating federal labor law.

The contributions followed a National Labor Relations Board determination in December 2018 that four Alaris nursing facilities violated laws by refusing to reinstate 35 strikers after their unconditional offer to return to work, agreeing with a judge’s 2016 ruling that the chain engaged in unlawful behavior.

The Alaris workers went on a three-day strike in September 2014 after management at the homes “committed a number of unfair labor practices (ULPs) against them, including threatening and interrogating employees and obstructing their legally protected right to bargain over their working conditions,” according to the charges against the company.

The five Eisenreichs initially gave $5,100 each, but Adams refunded $15,500 in order to abide by a lower contribution limit required to get a higher rate of taxpayer-backed campaign matching funds. Adams and other candidates for mayor must cap contributions from any one donor at $2,000 in order to collect $8 in public campaign funds for every $1 raised — up to $250 for donations from city residents.

Ryan Sheridan was sentenced in federal court to 7 ½ years in prison for crimes related to a $48 million health care fraud conspiracy.  Sheridan was also ordered to pay $24,479,939 in restitution. He pleaded guilty in October to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, seven counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to distribute Suboxone, 22 counts of use of another’s registration number of another to obtain controlled substances, one count of operating a drug premises, and 28 counts of money laundering.

Ryan Sheridan owned Braking Point Recovery Center, which had locations in the Youngstown and Columbus areas. He planned to open a third center in Wooster after purchasing 10 parcels of land downtown, including the former Horn Nursing Home facility, for $1.75 million in April 2017.

Sheridan and various other defendants falsely billed Medicaid for drug and alcohol recovery services between January 2015 and October 2017, authorities said. Many of those services were never provided, not medically necessary, lacked proper documentation or had other issues that made them ineligible for reimbursement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland said.

“That beacon of hope for the addicted turned out to be a bonfire of our tax dollars. Heartless,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a prepared statement.

Sheridan was ordered to forfeit property obtained as a result of his crimes, including eight automobiles, some of which are replicas of vehicles used in the movies “Back to the Future,” “Ghostbusters” and “Batman.”

Co-defendants Dr. Thomas Bailey and Dr. Arthur Smith were sentenced to two years of probation with six months of community service and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. Co-defendant Lisa Pertee was sentenced to one year of probation with 60 days of community service and ordered to pay $2,200 in special assessments.

 

Steve Piskor placed a camera in his mother’s room at Summit County Nursing Homes in 2011.  The video recorded eight aides abusing his then-78-year-old mother, Esther, who had Alzheimer’s disease and died in 2018. Eventually, two of the aides went to prison, three were fired and three were disciplined, Piskor said.

The family’s experience with elder abuse inspired Senate Bill 255 and House Bill 461, or “Esther’s Law,” companion measures introduced in the Ohio legislature in December. It would allow residents of facilities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities to set up a video recording device in their room.

“I’m not trying to say all aides are bad and all nursing homes are bad. … What we’re trying to do is just stop the abuse,” said Piskor, 65, of Cleveland.

Piskor shared his experience during the second meeting of the Summit County Nursing Homes and Facilities Task Force on Tuesday morning in the Greater Akron Chamber office.

One of the primary focuses of the task force is staffing issues. Kim Hone McMahan, a retired Beacon Journal reporter and columnist whose 103-year-old mother was injured in a nursing home in May, said staff at nursing homes and other facilities are often underpaid, under-trained and difficult to retain, saying she’s found some facilities with a turnover rate of 100%.

“Many if not most incidents in nursing homes are [due to] a lack of staffing, proper staffing,” said McMahan, saying the lack of proper staffing “has reached a crisis.”

“Without staff, we’re not going to have the quality of care that we’re looking for,” attendees said.

Preliminary ideas from the task force include a workforce development initiative with Stark State College and a Peace Corps-style training program within the county for young people interested in health care or caregiving. The program would allow them to get experience in nursing homes and other facilities and potentially be hired permanently in the future.

“We’ve been hearing this ever since we mentioned we were looking into this, not only from the providers of the service but from families who have loved ones in the facilities,” Summit County Council President Jeff Wilhite said of staffing issues.

 

 

On Jan. 3, the Golden Living for profit nursing home chain was required to turn over numerous records showing extreme cases of understaffing, poor care, and falsified records. After numerous law suits from reporters and the state attorney general’s office, the nursing home chain was brought to Court.

It all started when reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie wanted copies of the correspondence between the Health Department and the new owners of Golden Living. The request included all agreements, contracts, leases, and correspondence to and from several department officials, dating back to 2016. Simmons-Ritchie’s argument was based upon Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law while the new owners argued that his request included confidential and secretive trade secrets that were not subject to public release.

Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law, or the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, went into effect in 2009 and was designed to guarantee that the general public has access to public records regarding their state governmental bodies. This act is looked upon as the worst act to be passed in the country only because it said that government records were not already free to the public.

Because the new owners of “Golden Living” could not prove that the release of these records would “result in a substantial competitive injury,” the presiding judge ruled that the nursing home chain had to release the requested records. This ruling is vital to current and potential clients of nursing homes because it showed that the public has the right to “know what was involved… and how it affects current ownership and management of these facilities.”

While this was a huge win for the public and Simmons-Ritchie, the opponents of the case can still appeal the Commonwealth Court’s opinion to the state Supreme Court, fighting for secrecy when it would bring no harm to their business.

 

LuRon Anderson, a physical therapist, is accused of making inappropriate physical contact with a resident at Rosetta Assisted Living center. Police were called for a report of inappropriate contact between a health care provider and a resident at the facility. Anderson was arrested on suspicion of indecent liberties. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office told KAPP-KVEW that the incident was reported by staff members at Rosetta Assisted Living in Pasco where the crime was allegedly committed.

Anderson is an in-home physical therapist who provides his services to residents on behalf of area nursing homes. Records show he’s had his license to practice physical therapy since August 2005.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation in conjunction with the Adult Protective Services division of the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.

 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Northern District of Iowa released the following:
Falsely Stated He Was Spending More Time with Patients in Nursing Homes Than He Was Actually Spending With Them

Dr. Joseph X. Latella, a primary care doctor in Webster City, Iowa, was sentenced today to two months in prison and to pay a fine after previously pleading guilty to making false statements related to health care matters.  Dr. Latella has also agreed to pay $316,438.96 to resolve False Claims Act allegations relating to claims he submitted for routine visits for nursing facility residents between January 1, 2014, and November 30, 2018.  The United States alleged that Dr. Latella submitted claims to Medicare and Medicaid for the most intensive and expensive claim code for such visits when, in fact, he was not performing services sufficient to justify use of that code.

Dr. Latella admitted in a plea agreement that, in June 2018, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa was conducting a civil investigation about concerns that Dr. Latella was “upcoding” claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid and billing for more intensive visits with patients at Webster City area nursing homes than he had performed.  The United States Attorney’s investigation indicated that Dr. Latella was billing over 93% of his nursing home visits to Medicare under the most intensive and expensive claim code.  For these claims to be valid, a doctor typically must spend 35 minutes at the patient’s bedside and on the patient’s facility floor or unit.  Medicare paid more than $94 for these claims, but would only have paid no more than $32 if the least expensive claim code, for routine ten minute visits, had been billed.  In July 2016, a Medicare contractor sent Dr. Latella a letter warning him that his billing patterns were significantly more expensive than other doctors.

In July 2018, Dr. Latella submitted sworn written answers to the United States Attorney, in which Dr. Latella falsely declared that, with respect to certain Medicare claims in 2017 and 2018, he had spent approximately 35 minutes for each of 12 patients’ care at two nursing homes.  With respect to one particular date in October 2017, Dr. Latella falsely swore he “started visiting the nursing home patients at 7:30 a.m. and completed my visits with each patient at approximately 5:30 p.m.”  In truth, a federal agent had conducted in-person surveillance of Dr. Latella on that date, and Dr. Latella only was on site at the first nursing home for a total of 47 minutes and did not visit the second nursing home at all on that date.  The administrator of the first nursing home estimated that Dr. Latella spent approximately five minutes with each nursing home patient during his visits to that nursing home.

Dr. Latella made further false statements about claims in January and February 2018, which the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit discovered through videotaped surveillance.  For example, Dr. Latella billed nine claims for services allegedly provided to nine Medicare patients, on February 2, 2018, at a nursing home, but the surveillance showed that Dr. Latella was only on site at the nursing home for a total of 14 minutes.

Dr. Latella provided the United States Attorney with fraudulent, re-created treatment notes in order to cover up his overbilling scheme.  Dr. Latella’s staff had a practice of shredding all notes for all nursing home patients immediately after billing the taxpayers for those services; at the time of the audit, therefore, Dr. Latella had no records of any of the treatment he had ever provided to patients at the nursing homes.  To re-create the notes, Dr. Latella contacted the nursing home administrators and nursing managers of various nursing homes and asked for copies of patients’ charts.  In truth, elderly residents of nursing homes did not receive the care for which taxpayers paid him, and these vulnerable nursing home residents’ family members cannot know whether and to what extent those nursing home residents received medical care from Dr. Latella over the years.

Dr. Latella was the medical director of two nursing homes at which he was billing fraudulently.  Dr. Latella also was the Hamilton County Coroner, provided services to inmates in the Hamilton County Jail and in the custody of the United States Marshal’s Service, and he also evaluated workers’ compensation claims for a major Webster City employer.

In total, Dr. Latella admitted that, between January 1, 2014, and November 30, 2018, he submitted 1,140 false claims to Medicare, which were not justified, and he was paid $107,980.59 by Medicare for those claims.  Dr. Latella also admitted that he caused Medicaid to make unjustified payments in the total amount of $9,218.73 for these claims.  As a part of his plea agreement, Dr. Latella has agreed to pay no less than $107,980.59 to Medicare and $9,218.73 to Medicaid for economic losses caused by his commission of the offense.

“Like all providers, doctors who treat Iowa’s elderly population have a duty to provide needed medical services and bill accurately for those services.  By his alleged actions, Dr. Latella scammed the healthcare system and left his elderly patients and their families wondering if the patients received care they needed,” said Peter E. Deegan, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa.  “When our office’s civil investigators made an official inquiry into his billing practices, Dr. Latella tried to throw the government off the scent by lying and creating false records.  This settlement and prosecution demonstrate my office’s focus on ensuring Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries receive the care to which they are entitled, public monies are well spent, and individuals or entities responding to my office’s civil investigative demands provide complete and truthful responses.”

“Government health care rules require bills be submitted only for services actually provided – anything more is fraudulent and a disservice to patients needing vital care,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “We will continue to protect the integrity of government health care programs and taxpayers funding these vital services by holding providers fully accountable.”

The civil matter arose from an affirmative investigation. False Claims Act cases can also be brought under the qui tam provisions of the Act, which encourage whistleblowers to bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any financial recovery.  The civil case was handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Melissa Carrington and Jacob Schunk.  The criminal case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tim Vavricek.  The cases were investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, and the Iowa Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

 

The former operator of Connecticut nursing homes pleaded guilty to embezzlement and tax offenses in federal court. Chaim Stern waived his right to be indicted in Bridgeport federal court, the Connecticut Post reported.

The charges against him developed during his time as the operator of Bridgeport Health Care Center and of Bridgeport Manor, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham.

He is accused of stealing around $4.1 million from the pension plans of one of the nursing homes from 2011 to 2018. Stern is accused of diverting the money to a purported charity called Em Kol Chai, which he controlled.

He is also accused of diverting more than $300,000 intended to be used to pay employee health claims and using it for other purposes, including his own personal use.

The total tax loss from his actions was $4,356,409.85, the news release said.

 

The Alzheimer’s Association South Carolina Chapter is joining forces with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to urge residents to take brain health seriously in 2020. “Many New Year’s resolutions are motivated by our waistlines, but our brains also benefit from regular exercise and healthy eating – no matter your age,” Cindy Alewine, president/CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association South Carolina Chapter, said. “We are delighted to partner with DHEC to spread the word about reducing your risk for cognitive decline.”

The Sumter Item published DHEC tips to “Take Brain Health to Heart” at www.scdhec.gov/brainhealth. The website includes information about the importance of physical activity, healthy foods, stopping tobacco use and managing other health concerns like high blood pressure and diabetes. Growing evidence indicates that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting key heart-healthy lifestyle habits. For example, regular cardiovascular exercise elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Evidence also shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline and that quitting can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.

“Like so many South Carolinians, I have had a loved one impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. DHEC’s Take Brain Health to Heart campaign emphasizes the important connection between a healthy heart and healthy brain,” said Nick Davidson, DHEC’s interim director of public health. “Additionally, we are committed to helping South Carolinians improve their heart and brain health by offering resources like the S.C. Tobacco Quitline. We know it’s not easy to stop smoking or vaping; that’s why the Quitline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669).”

 More than 90,000 South Carolinians are living with Alzheimer’s disease. While there is no definitive way to prevent Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association is advancing prevention research through U.S. POINTER, a two-year clinical trial on lifestyle interventions. This study seeks to protect cognitive function in older adults through healthy nutrition, physical activity, social and intellectual challenges and increased medical monitoring of vascular and metabolic conditions.

“We may not be able to change our age or genetics, but we can influence other risk factors for cognitive decline,” Alewine said. “Focus on the choices you make each day, and be patient with yourself. Even modest or gradual improvements can make a big difference to your brain health.”

For more information on “Taking Brain Health to Heart,” visit www.scdhec.gov/brainhealth or www.alz.org/sc.

A Kentucky jury heard evidence of the pain and suffering caused by the neglect of a nursing home and reached a unanimous $5-million verdict against Superior Care Home facility.  The jury determined the nursing home violated its duty to provide care and keep the resident safe. and agreed to compensate Tallent’s Estate with $1 million in damages, along with $4 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish or deter future similar conduct.

The family of 84-year-old Regina Tallent filed the lawsuit in June 2017, eight months after Tallent died at the facility.  Tallent suffered from several health issues, including Parkinson’s disease.  She needed and was ordered to be on a soft diet, because there was a risk of choking.

The attorney representing Tallent’s family, Tad Thomas, told Local 6 that Tallent choked on various foods that were not on her prescribed diet in several instances while at Superior Care Home. Then in September 2016, she choked to death — just seven months after she was admitted to the nursing home.

The family released a statement, saying, “Regina Tallent’s family is extremely grateful to the jury who paid close attention to the evidence and came to this unanimous decision. They pursued this case, not only to seek justice for Ms. Tallent, but to protect other residents in the future. Our seniors need and deserve high quality care and we hope this verdict will result in a change in business practices to ensure that residents of Superior Care are treated appropriately.”

This is the second multimillion-dollar verdict against the nursing home in five months.

In August, a jury found Superior Care Home was at fault for gross negligence and failure to provide proper medical care in the death of Mary Opal Moore. The Moore family was awarded $2.2 million.

Moore, who had dementia, lived in the Paducah nursing home from December 2014 to March 2015. On March 21, 2015, the nursing home called her son and said he needed to come pick her up. The lawsuit said Moore was being forced out of the facility. Three weeks after she left the nursing home, she died. That lawsuit shows Superior Care Home’s actions led to the deterioration of Moore’s health — ultimately resulting in her death.