The News-Gazette recently reported on an investigation conducted by the CU-CitizenAccess group in the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois. This group researched and investigated 81 nursing homes across Illinois, and found that since early 2011 the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) handed down fines totaling approximately $632,000 to 51 of those 81 nursing homes and facilities. As the article indicates, the homes studied are from different areas of the state (note in recent news and blog posts here that Lee, Whiteside, Ogle and Carroll Counties in particular had incidents with patients that led to substantial sanctions). And prior to this study, another investigation by the same group reported that, from 2006 to 2010, 93 nursing homes paid out over $1 million.
The continued problems to this date are notable because the state enacted reforms through the Illinois Nursing Home Safety Act in 2010. Nursing home owners and industry people cite a faulty rating system that does not accurately reflect the true level of overall care in nursing homes. On the flip side, however, and as we have examined previously, methods of evaluating nursing homes, such as Medicare’s five-star rating scale, have faced criticism largely because they rely on information and data self-reported by nursing home facilities. Naturally there is a conflict of interest here that was touched on in recent months in media reporting, since facilities may inherently be prone to over-report success and underreport failures in order to maintain high ratings. These ratings, which account for “staffing levels, inspection results and resident conditions” among other criteria, are published online on websites such as Medicare.gov. While 51 of the 81 homes in this particular study were fined in some way, 16 of these homes only received one star on the Medicare scale, and 18 facilities had two stars.
Problems in Central Illinois
Champaign County serves as another location where alleged poor quality of care led to the deterioration and eventual death of patients. Three of the seven Medicare-approved facilities in Champaign County received a one star rating. One particular heartbreaking incident at the Heartland of Champaign nursing home involved a patient that died as a result of terribly poor care. The patient originally checked into another facility because of chest pains but then transferred to Heartland for his recovery period. After three months at the nursing home, his weight dropped from 199 pounds to 168, and the patient had dealt with a stomach illness, dehydration and a urinary tract infection that resulted in septic shock. Heartland then sent him back to the original facility for further treatment, but he died there. That patient’s spouse filed a lawsuit in county circuit court. Additional violations related to failure to report a resident’s fall that caused the resident tremendous pain resulted in $2,200 in fines here as well. In another disturbing case, a patient sued and won $60,000 in damages after his wife died at Champaign County Nursing Home.
The lawsuit cited “medication overdose, acute post-hemorrhagic anemia, hypovolemia, shock, coagulopathy, hematoma, illness, and eventual death.” That particular facility had a reported minimum of 11 violations, according to a federal inspection report, related to patients’ nursing and diet, further showing how things as seemingly simple as malnutrition and dehydration as a result of neglect of a patient can lead to catastrophic consequences. Another facility called Helia in the county also was fined $25,000 back in February for failing to properly treat a wound according to doctor’s instructions, failure to do a full admission assessment, as well as a failure to notice how four residents suffered from pressure ulcers. Thus Champaign County also appears to contribute to the disappointing status of Illinois when it comes to nursing home care.
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