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Illini Restorative Care, a senior living facility owned by Genesis Health in Silvis, Illinois (the quad cities), was fined $250,000 in September when a CNA reported that a colleague posted a topless picture of a male resident on social media. The female CNA told investigators from the Illinois Department of Public Health that she was on a social media site on her cell phone and put it in her pocket when the resident needed her attention. She says she unknowingly took the photo and posted it to her social media account. Genesis reported that it fired the CNA for violating their cell phone policy, which forbids employees from carrying their cell phones into resident’s rooms, and that they were the ones to report the violation to IDPH.

Not an Isolated Incident

In 2015, ProPublica published a report on the number of known instances of employees posting resident photos on social media. At that time, there were 47 known incidents between 2012-2015. As of June 2017, the number of reported cases had increased to 65. One of the violations detailed by ProPublica happened at Rosewood Care Center in St. Charles, IL. In that case, an employee posted a video of a co-worker slapping a 97 year old resident in the face while the resident cried for them to stop. Rosewood reported that the two employees were fired. The other reports came from all over the country, with another incident occurring in Peoria, and several in Wisconsin.

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As part of a program to increase pay for the lowest-paid workers within long term care facilities and nursing homes, the state of Massachusetts earmarked $35.5 million in 2016 to help compensate these employees.  The Boston Globe reported earlier this year that much of the pay actually went to boosting the salaries of high-level executives within nursing homes. Although the claim is being disputed by nursing homes throughout the state, MA Representative Nick Collins is pointing a spotlight on Kindred Nursing Centers, who took the payout and then announced shortly after that they would be closing 5 facilities and laying off 600 more employees in their facilities in Boston, Canton, Dedham, and Needham, MA. Kindred has denied the allegations and has vowed to work with officials on an investigation.

Kindred Selling Off Facilities to Humana and Private Equity Firms

Kindred Nursing Centers is a chain of rehabilitation and nursing centers based out of Louisville, KY. There are currently 13 Kindred-owned companies in the state of Illinois, including 2 hospice centers in Arlington Heights and Oak Brook, 5 Kindred at Home companies, and 6 Kindred Hospitals which function as extended care facilities that promise to provide hospital-level care.

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5 nursing home-related companies have banded together to file a lawsuit against Felicia Norwood, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, alleging that the state quietly slashed Medicaid reimbursement rates, a move that shuns a federal law requiring such decisions be made in a public forum.

The lawsuit also states that due to the reduced reimbursements, facilities may have to limit the number of Medicaid patients it accepts, as well as reduce therapies and services provided to residents whose care is funded by Medicaid. The lawsuits asks for a renegotiation of reimbursement rates, with talks to include participation by nursing homes.

The 5 companies involved in the lawsuit are:

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Brius Healthcare Services, the largest nursing home chain in the state of California, is yet again named as a defendant in a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit. In April, our blog discussed the two pressure-sore related deaths of men who were residents of Brius-owned nursing homes. In November 2016, 64 year old Randy Kruger died from an untreated pressure sore at Eureka Rehabilitation & Wellness Center after 16 months in the facility. According to reports, the pressure ulcer was so wide and so deep that you could put a fist to his backbone. Just 8 months earlier, Ralph Sorenson, a resident of Seaview Rehabilitation & Wellness Center, passed away from from an untreated pressure ulcer. His bed sore developed within one month of being admitted to the facility and records show he was rarely bathed or attended to.

Day-to-day operations of both facilities are managed by Rockport Healthcare Services, who, along with Brius Healthcare Services, was named in a wrongful death lawsuit by the families of Randy Kruger and Ralph Sorenson. Given the utter disregard shown to Mr. Kruger and Mr. Sorenson, perhaps it should not be surprising that both Brius Healthcare Services and Rockport Healthcare Services have been recently named in another lawsuit filed by the family of a deceased resident.

Patient Dies Within a Month of Admittance

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John ‘Jack’ Walsh, Jr. was 63 years old and suffering from Schizophrenia when he was dropped off early to a medical appointment by an ambulance company. Jack was transported by Action Ambulance from Pleasant Valley Nursing Center in Derry, NH, to Parkland Medical Center for a 1:30 appointment and never came home. More than 3 months later, his body was found partially submerged in water on the grounds of someone’s nearby home.

Hours Passed Before Ambulance Company and Nursing Home Contacted Family 

A lawsuit filed by Mr. Walsh’s sisters states that they were with their brother on the afternoon of December 13, 2016, the day he went missing from his doctor’s appointment. During lunch with their brother, the 3 sisters say they received a phone call from the nursing home stating that he had a 1:30 p.m. doctor’s appointment. The sisters took their brother back to Pleasant Valley Nursing Center, where he was picked up by Action Ambulance and taken without a nursing home chaperone to Parkland Medical Center. The suit alleges that the female employee from Action Ambulance left him in the waiting room and told him to call her when his appointment was finished. According to the suit, despite Jack’s history of schizophrenia, he was sent unaccompanied to the appointment, left unattended by Action Ambulance, and wasn’t properly monitored while inside Parkland Medical Center. It was only when Parkland Medical Center went to call Mr. Walsh from the waiting room that they discovered he was missing. Mr. Walsh did not own a mobile phone and his sisters allege that he had never followed this protocol for medical appointments in the past. The lawsuit also states that no one in the family gave permission for him to be taken to the appointment.

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CBS Chicago reports that Bridget Pollard, a 76 year old Rogers Park woman suffering from bipolar disorder and dementia was convinced to send a check for $340,000 to Grace Cathedral, a mega church run by televangelist Reverend Ernest Angley in Akron, Ohio. The church preached that those who gave generously would guarantee their entry to heaven.

Mrs. Pollard’s husband died in 2015 and with no children to look after her, she lived alone and was able to easily remove $340,000 from her late husband’s pension. Mrs. Pollard is reported to have repeatedly refused care by others, but after her insistent niece paid her a visit, she discovered her aunt living without heat, water, or electricity, and amongst old garbage and 44 stray cats. Her niece also discovered her aunt’s emptied bank account and instantly realized she had been taken advantage of by the mega church. After reporting the incident, Mrs. Pollard is now under The Cook County Public Guardian, who has taken the lead on pursing a lawsuit against the church in order to recover all of the $340,000 she was conned into donating.

Although Mrs. Pollard had only been to Grace Cathedral several times, she kept in touch with Corliss Whitney, a singer from the church who became her power of attorney and also attempted to become her legal guardian. According to the Cook County Public Guardian, given the lack of contact between the two, Ms. Whitney took advantage of Bridget Pollard as part of a scheme to take money from the elderly. It is believed that Ms. Whitney had never attempted to look after Mrs. Pollard’s health or well-being, or remove her from the dire situation inside her home.

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In September 2017, Lincoln Manor Healthcare, a nursing home in Decatur, Illinois gave residents and staff 48 hours notice that they would be closing their doors due to the owner’s failure to pay bills to keep the doors open. Although employees of the facility initially told Decatur’s Herald & Review news that all family members and loved ones had been notified, several people report having no idea that their loved one was to be relocated until they received a phone call from another facility preparing to accept them as a resident transfer. 60 residents called Lincoln Manor their home at the time and sadness and fear were felt by many of the residents and their loved ones upon learning that they would suddenly be living somewhere new. So what are your rights as a nursing home resident or a loved one of someone who lives in a nursing home?

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, an organization committed to improving the quality of life for the elderly through advocacy and education, maintains an online database of useful information regarding many issues affecting the livelihood of nursing home residents, including what steps must be followed in the event of a nursing home closure. The topic deserves attention, as the frequency of nursing home closures has been on the rise in recent years.

Some of the federal rules imposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) include 60 days notice to CMS and residents of the intent to close the facility, as well as a plan for relocation. According to federal regulations, relocation plans are more than documentation that a new facility is willing to accept the resident. Instead, they should include comprehensive care plans that cover all aspects of their care, from medicines, to nutrition, to services such as physical and behavorial therapy. Nursing home transfers are notorious for allowing important information regarding resident care to fall through the cracks.

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Every nursing home website, every brochure, every administrator, and every admissions representative says it: “Caring for our residents is our top priority.” As we’ve experienced firsthand through nearly 3 decades of working with our clients, that’s not always the case. According to a January New York Times article entitled Care Suffers as More Nursing Homes Feed Money Into Corporate Webs, nearly 75% of all U.S. nursing homes are benefitting financially from relationships called “related party transactions.” The often unknown truth of the nursing home industry is that ownership can be lucrative and greed has been known to overpower good judgment.

Benefits: Increased Profits, Reduced Liability & Reduced Staff

Related party transactions refer to a complex network of businesses that conduct transactions behind the scenes in nursing homes for goods and services. The owner or owners have a vested interest in related corporations and in essence set up contracts with themselves to provide things such as linens, food, physical therapy, and other goods and services to nursing homes. In fact, this business method is not only legal, but encouraged and taught by attorneys who defend nursing homes. Owners reap large profits by giving contracts to companies they either own, co-own, or have a financial interest in, and pay more for these goods and services than they would if they had sought bids from several competitors.

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News sources are reporting that the owner of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, the Hollywood, FL nursing home who lost at least 12 residents after letting them suffer for days in sweltering heat, had sought court approval to be reimbursed for air conditioning repairs on the building in 2015. According to the lawsuit in 2015, Dr. Jack Michel was taking ownership of the nursing home from someone who was facing foreclosure on the property. Dr. Michel argued that buying a new generator and replacing failing air conditioning chillers was essential to protecting the safety of the nursing home residents and that going without air in the Florida heat would be a “catastrophe” that would force the nursing home  “to be shut down and the patients evacuated.” Although the judge did not agree to reimburse Dr. Michel from the money recovered during the previous owner’s foreclosure proceedings, Dr. Michel went ahead with the purchase of the building and paid to replace the cooling tower.

Greed Over Safety

It was September of this year when Hurricane Irma battered Florida’s southeast coast, including Broward County, the area in which the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is located. The nursing home went without air conditioning for 5 days before 911 calls from staff tipped off authorities and a neighboring hospital that something was terribly wrong. Lawsuits filed by the loved ones of several victims are pending in the wake of the devastation and have revealed that staff had used only fans and portable air conditioning units to cool the facility. The public has also learned that nursing home staff had tried to cover their missteps by falsely charting on patients, even after they had finally been transported to neighborhood hospitals and had died.

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During his campaign, now-President Donald Trump promised business owners that they would be able to operate with minimal government intervention if he were to be elected. Fast forward to today, when his Administration has essentially handed nursing homes a get out of jail free card, allowing them to face little, if any, financial punishment for all-too-common abuse and neglect of senior citizens. According to Kaiser Health News, federal records prove that 4 of every 10 nursing homes have been cited at least once in the past 4 years for neglect or abuse that is considered avoidable.

Trump Administration Proving to be Pro-Business, Anti-Elderly

Since President Trump’s election, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have reversed their stance on an Obama-era ban on arbitration agreements in nursing home contracts. The ban was stalled by the nursing home industry in December 2016 and never went into effect in 2017 as planned. Instead, CMS, now under Trump’s authority, decided to abandon their fight for arbitration agreement bans, essentially giving nursing homes the idea that the Administration supports their use. As the nursing home abuse lawyers of Levin & Perconti have extensively covered in our Illinois Nursing Home Abuse blog, arbitration agreements force the elderly and their loved ones to give up their right to sue and are well-known by legal experts to favor the party attempting to enforce them. Arbitration agreements have been discussed in the news frequently in recent years, not only due to the fight over their use in nursing homes, but also because Wells Fargo attempted to use them to skirt lawsuits after opening false accounts using their customers’ names. As with many nursing homes, credit card companies and cell phone providers, Wells Fargo buried the arbitration clause in a lengthy customer agreement.