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In recent months, The Boston Globe and USA Today have released a series of articles related to VA nursing home care. From hidden statistics to an in-depth view of one Bedford, Mass. VA nursing home ranked at one star, the facts from the investigation paint a grim picture for veterans in search of elder care.

A star-ranking system, which rates the nation’s 133 VA facilities by providing an overview of the general quality of care rather than detailed, long-term care reports, was just released in June of this year after years of being kept hidden.

Though, on average, private nursing homes rate better than the government-funded VA homes, many of the problems outlined in the investigative articles are all too common in private and public facilities alike.

Ashton Place Health and Rehabilitation, a Midtown nursing home with a history of abused and neglected residents, proved to be a hotbed of even more controversy in mid-October after a resident at the facility was found lying in a pile of his excretion while also dealing with an open leg wound that became a home for maggots. He was taken to a hospital and later passed away.

The incident, which unfortunately is not the only one of its kind, caught the attention of both medical examiners and the Memphis Police. In certain instances, victims reached out to lawyers as well, including Jehl Law Group, where we currently have pending cases against the Rehabilitation Center.

Other allegations brought against the nursing home included a patient who had pressure sores, a patient who fell multiple times and died, and a complaint of a sexual assault.

A recent audit conducted by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office confirms what we often see in cases that we handle at the Jehl Law Group: in many cases the State of Tennessee is failing to hold nursing homes accountable for abusing or neglecting seniors. The audit examines the activities of the Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities, which is responsible for licensing, inspecting, and surveying nursing homes in the State of Tennessee. The audit relied on a random sample of 25 facilities that included, 17 nursing homes, 3 hospitals, 3 assisted-care living facilities, 1 home health agency, and 1 residential home for the aged.

Federal and state regulations require investigations into complaints received by the Office of Health Care Facilities. When complaints come into that office, they are categorized by how urgent or serious the complaint is. The audit examined the two most serious types of complaints:

  • Immediate Jeopardy (IJ)- Meaning that a nursing home’s actions or failure to comply with federal regulations has caused or is likely to cause serious injury, harm, impairment or death to a resident, and

Two Signature Healthcare nursing homes in Memphis, Signature Healthcare at St. Peter Villa in Midtown and Signature Healthcare at St. Francis on the campus of St. Francis Hospital on Park Avenue, have been the subject of recent scrutiny by the Tennessee Department of Health.  Thanks to the reporting of WREG in Memphis, the mismanagement and mistreatment of patients at these Memphis nursing homes has been brought to the public’s attention.  Unfortunately, we at the Jehl Law Group have seen a number of cases involving residents who have been neglected at these facilities over the years.

The evidence of the mistreatment of patients that Signature Healthcare has caused is available in public surveys conducted by the State of Tennessee and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  These surveys provide an essential monitoring of nursing homes and often expose neglect and abuse of residents.  These surveys are essential in gauging how nursing homes may have mistreated their patients and/or misused money received through Medicare and Medicaid.

Due to recent findings by State Surveyors, Signature Healthcare at St. Francis had its payments from Medicare temporarily revoked last week for what was described as mismanagement.  As a result, the facility had to move many of its patients to other facilities.

Another week and another disturbing practice is revealed about nursing homes taking advantage of their residents. A report from the New York Times found that nursing homes in New York and several other states have been using a legal tactic to take control of their resident’s assets in an attempt to recover for unpaid medical bills when an issue arises with insurance payment. These nursing homes have been filing guardianship petitions that essentially grant them full authority over both the patient and their money. Through the Times’ reporting we are able to glimpse a troubling  practice that often takes place in the shadows of the legal system. Many of these cases are closed to public view because of privacy issues and it is difficult not only to ascertain how common the practice is but to what extent it takes place throughout the United States.

The nursing homes that were the subject of the story appeared to be using the practice in vindictive ways. For example, one resident found herself to be the subject of a guardianship petition after lodging complaints about the nursing home’s treatment. If nursing homes attempt to silence those who would speak up about inadequacies in patient care using such strong-arm tactics there can be little to no accountability for putting patients at risk.

What is most troubling about this practice is that nursing homes are taking advantage of their patient’s infirmness and blatantly taking control of the patients away from their families. When it comes to patients who can no longer make decisions for themselves it is outrageous to see that the wishes of their loved ones may be circumvented in a shortsighted effort to recoup losses for the nursing home. Many of these incidents involve disputes over insurance and could be resolved without sacrificing the legal rights and dignity of the patients by having control of their lives handed over to a corporation.

A recent survey conducted by the Tennessee Department of Health of Signature Healthcare at St. Peter Villa in Memphis, Tennessee, revealed multiple deficiencies.  The survey, completed on August 27, 2014, concluded that the nursing home neglected to take required precautions for resident care, which resulted in immediate jeopardy to multiple residents.  According to the survey, the facility neglected to perform the Heimlich maneuver when a resident began choking.  This resulted in a finding of immediate jeopardy to the resident who subsequently choked to death.

The survey revealed that the resident had been put on a physician ordered “mechanical soft diet with pureed meat,” due to a swallowing problem.  Interviews conducted by the surveyor revealed that the facility neglected to ensure that the resident received the proper diet.  Surveyors found that the resident received non-pureed meat and was left alone to eat in his room.

In another deficiency cited in the same survey, the surveyors found that the facility failed to properly investigate and report an alleged rape.  Additionally, the survey found that the facility failed to take proper steps to prevent further potential abuse during the investigation.  Federal law requires a long term nursing facility to ensure that all alleged violations of neglect or abuse are reported through established procedures.  The surveyors found that the facility failed to meet this requirement, placing the resident in immediate jeopardy of further potential abuse.

Disturbing findings were made during a recent survey conducted at Golden Living Center-Union City.  In the survey, completed on September 24, 2014, significant deficiencies in care at the facility were noted. In the survey, it was stated that the facility “neglected to provide emergency resuscitation” for one of the residents at the facility.  According to the survey, the employees then failed to timely report the incident to the administrator and the administrator failed to properly report the incident to the state agency charged with monitoring nursing home care.

The patient that the facility was charged with protecting was “full code,” meaning that life saving measures should have been taken by the staff if he or she was found unresponsive.  Instead, state surveyors found that the staff failed to check the code status for the patient and did not provide CPR as the policy at the facility would have demanded.  In interviews conducted by the surveyor, the nurses who had attended to the patient stated that they had assumed the patient was DNR or “do not resuscitate” and did not even attempt to resuscitate the resident.

It is tragic to think that a facility charged with protecting the most vulnerable can neglect their responsibilities when they are needed most. While many patients in nursing homes are approaching the end of life, they deserve the dignity of life saving measures as much as any healthy and active person.

Earlier this month, the White House announced executive actions aimed at improving the quality of care at nursing home facilities across the country. Known as the Improving Medicare Post Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014 or IMPACT Act, the actions seek to improve care by strengthening the Five Star Quality Rating System used by Medicare.

The star rating system, which families, doctors, and patients rely on to choose nursing homes, has had its share of scrutiny as of late. A recent report from the New York Times assailed the system as unreliable and inconsistent, claiming that it relied on data submitted directly by the nursing homes with Medicare doing little to confirm that information or ensure that nursing homes or their corporate owners were not enhancing their rating by boosting their reported information.

Given the importance of these ratings and the concerns about their accuracy, it was reassuring to hear that the federal government is taking action to ensure better information is available to families when critical decisions need to be made.

A recent federal survey conducted at a nursing home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee revealed several areas of issue in the care there.  In a complaint survey dated May 14, 2014, NHC Healthcare, Murfreesboro was cited for a number of deficiencies including:

  • not properly obtaining abuse registry checks for employees,
  • not maintaining an environment to prevent cross-contamination, and
  • failing to properly document medication administration and effectiveness.

All three of these deficiencies could lead to endangerment of residents at the nursing home.  If you or a loved one have experienced medication errors, infections, or have seen signs of abuse or neglect on the part of NHC Healthcare, Murfreesboro or its employees please contact Jehl Law Group, PLLC immediately!

The allegations here are serious.  Any one of these deficiencies could lead to life threatening consequences for the residents at this nursing home.  When nursing homes fail to adequately perform background checks on employees, patients can be put at risk of physical, mental, or sexual abuse by nursing home employees.  Far too often, we have witnessed caretakers causing harm to residents in nursing homes in Tennessee.  It is of the utmost importance to conduct proper background checks so that sexual predators or those who may take financial advantage of the elderly are not put in a position where they can take advantage of those dependent on them for their well-being and care.   We encourage nursing homes to seek out employees who respect the dignity of human life and part of this is ensuring that their employees do not have a history of abuse Continue reading

The New York Times recently published a scathing report that documents how many nursing homes hide behind artificially inflated ratings and surveys.  In its report, the Times looked at several nursing homes that had received high marks from Medicare and found that the actual quality of their care over an extended period did not line up with the rating they were given.

file3291234309584Medicare gives nursing homes a rating from one to five stars based on several factors including surveys and inspections of the facility, staffing levels, and quality statistics.  These ratings are made publicly available and influence the public and professional perception of these facilities.  It should be troubling, therefore, to find out that these ratings may not be as reliable as you may have been led to believe. Continue reading

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