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Last month, we posted on lawsuits brought forth by the Attorney General of Pennsylvania against nursing homes in the state. Facilities owned by Reliant Senior Care were named in the lawsuit and were sued for $2 million, the largest verdict of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania. Reliant was guilty of negligence, abuse and under staffing its facilities. This month, Priority Healthcare Group, a New York-based nursing home group, announced the purchase of 10 Pennsylvania nursing homes owned by Golden Living Nursing Homes. Golden Living is also being sued by the Pennsylvania Attorney General for violations that are strikingly similar to those committed by nursing homes owned by Reliant Senior Care.

Priority Healthcare has purchased the licenses for the nursing homes but not the actual buildings or land, which has led some skeptics to believe this was a move by Golden Living to meet promises it made to the attorney general as part of a to-be-announced deal. When questioned, Priority says that it was attracted to Golden Living’s 10 nursing homes because they are passionate about making over nursing homes in need of improvement. They also claim that they have a track record of improving such facilities, although data showing their past successes is not available.

Due Diligence is Always the Best Bet

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3 Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) have sued Carrington Place of Chesapeake, a Virginia nursing facility, for firing them after they reported abuse being committed by nurses during an overnight shift.

On May 12, 2016, the 3 CNAs were working the 11 pm – 7 am shift when they witnessed 2 staff nurses tying elderly residents to their wheelchairs using sheets around their waists. Once tied up, the nurses injected sedatives into the victims, despite not having physician’s orders to do so and left them drugged and tied to their chairs for a period of 5 to 6 hours.

Punished For Doing the Right Thing

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A Bradford, PA man is suing The Pavilion at Bradford Regional Medical Center and Bradford Hospital for failing to properly supervise its residents. In the lawsuit, the victim alleges that the staff’s lack of supervision resulted in a fellow resident attacking him and causing him to lose a testicle. The lack of supervision is especially egregious because the attacker had a known history of violent behavior.

Nursing homes and care facilities have a duty to properly supervise all residents in order to ensure their safety and well being. Nursing homes are known for under staffing in order to protect their bottom line, as well as underpaying employees and skimping on adequate training needed to successfully perform their job. Instances such as the one highlighted in this lawsuit are an unfortunately common occurrence in America’s nursing homes.

 

 

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Last month, AARP Texas released a report entitled Intolerable Care – a snapshot of the Texas nursing home quality crisis. Their findings revealed the sad reality of what is happening in nursing homes in Texas and elsewhere: poor care, abuse and neglect is allowed to persist because of insufficient oversight and policies that enable owners and administrators instead of the elderly and disabled.

The report shows that out of 17,466 state violations between 9/2014 and 9/2015, the state of Texas only pursued action in 40 cases.  This statistic alone is enough to to spark concern, but added to the fact that many of the nearly 18,000 violations were against facilities that had already been reported as violating state nursing home laws. Another stunning fact? Many of the violations reported to the state were for actions that could ‘immediately’ harm residents of a facility. Among the violations, the most common was medication errors and the second was for staff treatment of residents.

Why Do the Same Facilities Keep Making the List?

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There’s an epidemic in America that is rarely discussed and deeply troubling. Our most vulnerable population is being victimized by sexual predators employed by nursing homes across the country.

Today, CNN released findings from their special investigative report on the sad reality of sexual abuse and rape in nursing homes. In their report, CNN found that instances of prior sexual assault by the same perpetrator had been reported before the incident that ultimately landed the assailant in jail.  State departments of public health are sent to investigate reports of any abuse, including sexual assault, on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees homes receiving government funding. These state agencies were all questioned by CNN, with some states, including Illinois, willing to give data. Since 2013, 386 cases of sexual abuse were reported in Illinois, and 201 of them were at the hands of a caretaker. Of all 386 cases, only 59 were substantiated.This means the other 327 cases were considered unable to be confirmed, an unsettling thought considering that in many cases that end up in court, the sexual abuser has been previously accused of the same behavior.

Many Facilities Part of the Cover Up

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James J. Peters Medical Center, a government-run nursing home in the Bronx, is facing a lawsuit over the death of a Vietnam veteran who fell twice while trying to get out of bed on the same day in 2014. The lawsuit alleges that the United States of America acted negligently by failing to provide proper supervision, care and emergency assistance to Aaron Thompson, the decedent. Mr. Thompson suffered for a month before succumbing to injuries stemming from the unsupervised falls.

The lawsuit also states that the government is liable for employing staff members who were unfit for the positions they were hired into and subsequently under trained. The lawsuit maintains that the failure to hire and train employees who were able to properly care for Mr. Thompson during his time at James J. Peters Medical Center directly led to his falls.

A Fall in a Nursing Home Is Negligence

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Cisco Systems, the California-based technology company, recently received a blow when a San Francisco judge ruled that a former employee with an age discrimination suit is allowed to pursue action against the company through the courts. Upon hiring, Cisco required employees to complete a large amount of standard paperwork, including an agreement they called a Proprietary Information & Invention Agreement. The document detailed how employees should handle all proprietary information, with a statement embedded in the fifth page that says any labor disputes will be forced into binding arbitration. Upon being hired, the employee signed the agreement, along with a stack of others, assuming the document stated the obvious. After being forced to file suit against the company for age discrimination, Cisco attempted to force the woman into arbitration. Her attorney took the matter to court and a judge ruled that Cisco’s bizarre placement of the binding arbitration requirement was an attempt to conceal a controversial policy.

Obama & the Courts vs. Arbitration Clauses

In 2014, former President Obama ordered that all companies with $1 million plus in federal contracts eliminate arbitration clauses that require agreement before any conflict has happened. In other words, having an arbitration clause in new hire paperwork was deemed by the President to be illegal.

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released their January 2017 posting of nursing homes that are a part of their Special Focus Facility Initiative, or SFF.  The initiative is an effort to identify and improve facilities that are not meeting the standards required by Medicare & Medicaid. CMS hopes that by placing these nursing homes on their watch list, they will undergo serious efforts to adopt sustainable policies and procedures that improve their ability to care for residents. Nursing homes placed in the SFF initiative are identified on the CMS website with the aim of informing potential residents and their families of the quality of care currently being provided at the facility.

Deficiencies are a reality for all nursing homes. CMS says that on average, each nursing facility inspection yields 6-7 deficiencies. However, the nursing homes that are put into the SFF Initiative have a higher than average number of them, as well as more serious deficiencies than most facilities. While the ultimate consequence is cutting a nursing home’s Medicare/Medicaid funding, the aim of the program is to provide the motivation for the facility to implement improvements and continue making gains in patient care within a specific timeframe. CMS says that only 16% of homes on the SFF list see their funding eliminated.

3 Illinois Nursing Homes Identified

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Starting January 30th, Congress began reviewing the latest revisions to nursing home regulations. In an earlier blog post today, we highlighted some of the new provisions, including those we found extremely favorable for America’s elderly. If you or someone you love is a nursing home resident, we strongly encourage you to take to Twitter and send a DAILY reminder to your congressman to let them know that you support the latest revisions. One of the major policies introduced was a ban on requiring binding arbitration. Binding arbitration would take away the right to sue. No matter how egregious the abuse or neglect was that occurred, by allowing binding arbitration to remain on nursing home contracts, a resident would not be eligible to truly fair compensation.

Why Now?

When a new administration enters the White House, they are given an opportunity to overturn any rules or regulations implemented in the last 60 days of the previous administration’s tenure. This is referred to as a Congressional Review Act and it is anticipated that it will be completed by February 11, 2017.

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In November 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began implementing their first newly revised set of nursing home regulations since 1991. According to CMS, 1.5 million Americans call a long term nursing care facility their home, a number that is increasing year by year. With such a large volume of residents in nursing homes, coupled with the fact that for-profit companies own and operate the majority of them, CMS finally decided to tighten rules imposed on the facilities. CMS hopes that the appeal of receiving as much funding as possible from Medicare and Medicaid will encourage facilities to abide by the latest set of changes.

The Good

One of the best provisions outlined in the new regulations is the call for staff training on elder abuse and neglect, specifically on how to care for residents with dementia. Dementia in some form is present in the majority of residents at nursing homes and knowing how to properly care for patients facing this diagnosis has been an age-old problem in long term care facilities.