This past November, the legislators in Oklahoma took steps to help protect their aging citizens by explicitly giving them and their families the right to put hidden cameras in their rooms at nursing home facilities. It remains unclear, however, whether the footage gathered from these devices will be able to be used in state investigations into facilities.

One woman was told that her mother had fallen out of bed twice in a 12 hour period. Nobody could tell her how long she was left on the floor, but photos of the wound showed a large amount of congealed blood soaked into the 93-year-old’s hair. She was sent to the hospital where she was diagnosed with severe dehydration, and it was discovered that the sippy cup she was using in the facility was completely clogged with black mold. The two alleged falls took place the day after she filed a complaint against the facility. Whether the falls were a coincidence or an act of retaliation, she pulled her mother from the facility to spend her remaining year of life at home.

When she called the state agency to report the incidents she informed them that she had photo evidence of the injuries, only to be told that they would not use them in their investigation because they could be doctored. However, when the Oklahoma State Department of Health was reached for comment they said that they could accept photographs and videos, but may not use them if they could not prove a chain of ownership or authenticity, which is a difficult task for the average family. Wes Bledsoe, a local elder advocate, commented on the reality of retaliatory actions by nursing home staff, and states he fears video evidence will be equally ignored.

The final segment of this report series focused on the lunacy of the slow and ineffective procedure of the Oklahoma Stated Department of Health’s investigations by comparing them to the action taken when a puppy mill is discovered. When the state discovers a puppy mill, where dogs are being bred and kept for profit, often in poor conditions, an outside vet is brought in immediately to check all the animals on site for signs of neglect and abuse. The logic here is that if one animal is being mistreated, there is a problem with care and likely other animals are being mistreated. However, when abuse or neglect in a nursing home facility is exposed, the facility is allowed to complete it’s own investigation, and the state merely reviews the reports the facility gives them. No outside doctor is brought in to check other residents for signs of substandard care. It seems bizarre that the state seems to take more action to stop animal abuse than elder abuse.

Hopefully, the work Fox23 and journalist Clay Looney did to help uncover some of these realities in their four part series will help sway public opinion and create enough awareness that legislators and regulators will be forced to effectively address the problem.

Government officials in Texas are squabbling over whether to terminate state contracts with nursing homes which repeatedly are found to abuse and neglect residents. The Department of Aging and Disability Services (aka DADS) in Texas has figures that show that severe violations, which put residents in immediate danger, have gone up 35%. Anecdotal evidence of such incidents is unfortunately not hard to come by.

For instance, there is the case of Minnie Graham, a 97 year old who’s family caught three different employees slapping and shoving her by installing a surveillance camera. A review of the DADS records shows that Ms. Minnie Graham’s home had 79 deficiencies from 2010-2013. Meanwhile, the facility received more than $8 million from Medicaid. The Department for Aging and Disability Services did recommend that the facility be cut off from government funds. Twice. However, the termination never happened. Federal law requires the department to reconsider terminations if the facilities come back into compliance within six months, even when the facilities are repeat offenders.

State Representative Elliot Naishtat is on the Human Services Committee, which oversees DADS and he is very concerned with this reality. He worries that there are not enough inspectors (something the DADS spokesperson denies) and has stated that he will push legislation that increases fines and sanctions against substandard nursing homes.

See full article at KHOU.

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Southwest Regional Specialty Hospital was fined almost $40,000 for violating state health and safety codes.  Southwest Regional’s nearly $39,000 in fines made it top on the list of penalty-payers and the only institution to be listed twice in the 12-month period.  Southwest is a 30-bed facility owned and operated by Fundamental Long Term Care Holdings.  Fundamental also owns the 58-bed Southwest Regional Skilled Nursing Center at the same address, according to Fundamental’s Web site.
Southwest Regional Specialty Hospital was fined $25,000 in January after an inspection found it violated eight Texas Health and Safety codes.  Among the categories violated were “infection control,” “emergency services,” “pharmacy services,” “nursing services,” “requirements for transfer of patients between hospitals,” and “governing body.” The Jan. 22 report also shows the hospital must serve a period of “probated suspension,” under which the hospital is able to continue operations.

Previously, the hospital was fined $13,950 for six violations relating to “patient rights,” “staffing,” “nursing services,” “non-employee licensed nurses,” “authentication of orders” and “governing body,” according to the report.

 

 

What lobbying group donated the most money to political campaigns for the legislators and governor of Louisiana?  You might guess oil and gas, telecommunications, or banking. If you did, you were wrong. For-profit nursing homes topped all of those with $2.8 million dollars contributed to various political campaigns in an attempt to gain influence and push laws favorable to their continued profitability.  Governor Bobby Jindal alone received more than $715,000.  Louisiana has the lowest ranked nursing homes in the entire nation, and some nursing home owners who are the most generous donors just happen to own some of the worst nursing homes in the state. A closer look at reporting for the state shows for-profit homes generally rate lower quality with average of 2.5 out of 5 and non-profits at 3.5 out of 5.

So what do these for-profit nursing homes get out of all this generosity? One Louisiana law sets a cap on fines. For instance, a violation that results in the death of a resident now results in a fine no larger than $2,500, even if the death is entirely the nursing home’s fault.

We might also look at the Jindal administration’s budget, which has increased nursing home spending while simultaneously cutting funding to LSU hospital system, slashing Medicare payments to private hospitals, reducing Medicaid payments to rural hospitals, and completely shutting down a hospital for the mentally ill.

How is the administration paying for the nearly $800 million in nursing home funding when the rest of the healthcare system is being forced to take cuts and closures? By draining a trust fund intended to provide elder care for years to come. The fund is intended to be used over a long term and should also provide support for in-home care and community services for the elderly. At the rate that the trust fund is currently being emptied into for-profit nursing homes, there will be nothing left by the time Jindal leaves office in 2016.

Roughly 20,000 Louisiana residents are on a waiting list for in-home care, while demand for nursing home beds has gone down. Nursing homes in the state remain only 75% full. The slump in demand isn’t bad news for these for-profit businesses however. They get a kickback for vacancies too. Once the numbers are crunched, all those empty beds cost the state and taxpayers $23 million dollars to support.

All of these revelations are the result of a four-month investigation and report by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News which culminated in their report series Louisiana Purchased. The report on nursing homes may be watched here.

The Des Moines Register reported that Mary Morse-Bolton, an Iowa nursing home owner, allegedly owes the state more than $400,000 in Medicaid overpayments, unpaid fines and unpaid taxes but continues to operate nursing homes despite numerous allegations of poor resident care and improper billing. For some unknown reason, Morse-Bolton has not been sanctioned for failing to pay the fines that date back to 2009. Her nursing home administrator’s license remains in good standing with state regulators.

In April 2010, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals alleged that one of her care facilities, Faith Ridge Life Center in Malvern, failed to ensure that residents were treated with dignity and respect, despite numerous staff and resident complaints of abusive conduct by one particular nurse aide.

The nurse aide allegedly boasted to a colleague that she would rub strawberries inside the water glass of a resident who was known to be allergic to the fruit. Nine co-workers alleged the aide also told residents to shut up; left the residents in urine-soaked clothing; concealed resident injuries from the nursing staff; told residents she was “too busy” to meet their needs; and switched off residents’ call lights without providing any assistance.

As a result of the inspectors’ findings, the state imposed a $1,500 fine against Faith Ridge. It was the home’s third fine in three months for failing to treat residents with dignity and respect. Today, nearly four years later, the $1,500 fine remains unpaid, and no sanctions have been imposed against the home for lack of payment. There appear to have been no efforts made to collect the fine for the past two years.

Companies controlled by Morse-Bolton have, in the state’s words, “repeatedly demonstrated poor quality” in delivering home-based services to the mentally disabled, and that they have, for the past nine years, repeatedly failed to provide documentation to support their billings to the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program.

Then, last fall, the state notified Morse-Bolton that Faith Ridge was two years behind in paying a quarterly health care tax imposed on all Iowa nursing homes. At the time, the state alleged, Faith Ridge owed $287,000 in delinquent taxes.

At the same time, the state notified Morse-Bolton that she owed the state an additional $165,315 for Medicaid overpayments that were routed to Kevington Lane, a care facility she operates in Sidney.

Carolina Live reported that South Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have recently refused funding for Marion Nursing Center in October.  The home lost its funding from CMS because they failed to comply with federal regulations. Medicare/Medicaid patients had to be removed from the home and placed into other facilities in the area, unless families paid for the home’s care themselves. CMS doesn’t revoke Medicare funding to homes very often, which indicates that the home failed to comply with regulations in a number of areas. Employees and members of the community wrote in the comments below the article, covering a variety of views.

Former administrator of the Gill Odd Fellows Home in Ludlow is proving to be an odd fellow indeed.  According to Valley News, Leslie Anne Whittington was suspended for unprofessional conduct.  Whittington served as the home’s administrator from 2006 to 2010 where she engaged in a number of questionable behaviors and decisions, including when Whittington went “beyond her scope of ability and training.”  Whittington also disagreed with a doctor’s order about a dying patient’s medication and recommending falsely diagnosing patients so they would be moved to psychiatric facilities.

The court agreed with original findings that Whittington had engaged in a number of activities of improper conduct and improperly interfering with medication administration.  However, the Vermont Supreme Court held the punishment may have been too harsh.  The court overturned Whittington’s five-year license suspension and returned that issue to the administrative law officer to re-examine.

Why would anyone allow her to operate a nursing home again?

Carolina Live reported recently that Marion Nursing Center, Inc. is no longer receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding after it was found not to be in compliance with requirements for the programs, according to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Officials say they will continue making payments for those patients at the nursing center for up to 30 days until they can be placed in other facilities.

Federal healthcare terminate funding to nursing homes due to patient care issues and if that care isn’t provided in a safe environment.  According to a federal health inspection report, Marion Nursing Center has 88 beds for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

 

The Hartford Courant reported fines issued to 4 different nursing homes in Connecticut in connection with several incidents that included a resident drug overdose and two residents suffering broken bones.

Cambridge Manor of Fairfield was fined $1,380 on July 31, in connection with two incidents at the home.  One was for a resident who was admitted to a hospital as unresponsive and suffering an overdose of morphine and thyroid medicine by mistake.  The second incident, on July 12, a resident was left unattended in a wheelchair in the lobby,and was found on Easton Turnpike.

The Greenwich Woods Health Care Center in Greenwich was fined $1,300 for incidents involving three residents, including a case on March 4, in which a nurse found a resident with a bruised and swollen arm. X-rays found a broken arm that occurred when nursing home staff were lifting or repositioning the resident.

On June 28, staff members discovered that a Greenwich Woods resident had fallen when an aide had left the person alone in a bathroom. Two days later, when the resident complained of chest pain, it was determined at a hospital that the resident had multiple rib fractures.

DPH also fined the Rosegarden Health & Rehabilitation Center of Waterbury $1,860 on July 22, in connection with the hospitalization of a resident whose had been given the wrong intravenous fluid on Nov. 12, 2012 after a nurse said she had a busy night and did not recognize that the wrong solution was used.

In another citation, DPH fined Regency Heights of New Britain $1,020 in connection with the verbal abuse of a resident by a nurse’s aide in March.

 

Public Justice published a great article by Leslie Bailey, Esq. on the need for vulnerable adults to be protected by the Courts.  The article discusses the disturbing report released by the Center for Investigative Reporting.   “The failure of California regulators to adequately investigate and pursue claims of abuse and misconduct by nursing assistants and health aids is “putting the elderly, sick, and disabled at risk.” In fact, the regulators that are charged with protecting vulnerable patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are either conducting “cursory and indifferent” investigations, or simply closing cases without taking any action at all.”  The report underscores how critically important it is for people to have the ability to sue when loved ones are harmed by nursing home neglect—or worse.

The CIR reports there are approximately 160,000 nursing assistants and in-home health aids working at hospitals, nursing homes, and mental health facilities throughout California.  As of 2009, the backlog of reported abuse and theft cases was so high that is was deemed a “crisis.”  So the state Department of Public Health secretly ordered investigators to dismiss 1,000 pending cases … without any action, not even a single phone call.   While the number of cases closed without action is on the rise, the main tool by which the agency is supposed to protect patients from abuse—revoking the licenses of nursing home employees—has plummeted in recent years. In other words, the abusers are permitted to continue working at their jobs, where they can continue to commit more horrific abuse. It’s gotten so bad that even a former Public Health director warns Californians: “do not count on the government taking care of you.

See the rest of the article below.

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