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Documents Outline Deficiencies At Local Nursing Homes

Justin Wingerter, Allison Blood
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CBS St. Louis (con't)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Allegations of rape, physical and verbal abuse, and neglect fill the pages of nursing home inspections released Wednesday.

The massive release came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the non-profit investigative journalism group ProPublica which published the inspections, spanning the past three years, in an online database.

The inspections were conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Along with full reports, the database lists the number of deficiencies found in each report and the amount of money paid by penalized nursing homes.

In St. Louis, eight homes were fined for a total of $67,645. Seven St. Louis County centers received fines, totaling over $60,000, along with a dozen Metro East nursing homes. In total, 513 nursing homes in Missouri were cited for deficiencies with 99 having “serious deficiencies,” for a total of $676,000 in penalties since 2009. Deficiencies were noted in 774 Illinois homes, costing owners over $2.3 million.

Among the most heavily penalized St. Louis centers was North Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on the city’s north side. Fifty-one deficiencies were recorded by investigators and $20,000 in fines issued. For residents, the center became known for lock-downs, used by staff as punishment, according to the inspection reports. One resident told an investigator, “It’s like being in jail.” The January, 2011 report also cites a ban on belts at the center after an attempted hanging by a resident, a policy which left some residents pantless and “failed to promote” resident dignity, according to investigators.

Another St. Louis City offender was the Carrie Elligson Gietner Home on South Broadway, flagged as a “special focus facility” by investigators after a death at the home in late 2010. A report found that Gietner Home staff “failed to adequately assess, monitor and notify the physician” of a patient who suffered chest pain for twelve hours after not being given his prescribed blood pressure medication. The unnamed patient died a short time later in an emergency room. The Carrie Elligson Gietner Home was fined $6,500 in December, 2010 and another $6,500 in August of 2011 for deficiencies.

A St. Louis County nursing home topped Missouri’s list of most penalized centers, according to the inspection documents. West County Care Center in Ballwin was fined $23,989 for 40 deficiencies over the three-year span, including a series of bizarre verbal abuse allegations. When asked by a fellow staff member why she yells crude insults at residents, a Certified Nurse’s Aide (CNA) said, “They are retarded; you have to treat them like kids,” according to an April, 2010 report. Nearly $24,000 in fines followed on the same date as the report and the center was given a “K” severity score, meaning it posed an “immediate jeopardy to resident health or safety” which was considered “part of a pattern,” according to investigators.

In Florissant, the Rancho Manor Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center was fined $6,500 after a November, 2011 incident in which a dementia patient escaped during breakfast, prompting a police search. The next day, a detective found the patient’s body in a creek nearly a mile from the nursing home. An autopsy ruled he or she had drowned.

Elsewhere in St. Louis County, the Ackert Park Skilled Care Community in University City was hit with $13,000 in fines after “the facility failed to provide prompt and adequate assessment, intervention, documentation, and physician notification” for two residents who died, according to a February, 2011 report. In one instance, the CNA noted a patient’s 104.1 degree fever at 1:00 a.m. but did not call for an ambulance – and made a routine call rather than an emergency call – until six hours later. The patient died sometime after paramedics arrived at 8:30 that morning.

Green Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in north St. Louis was fined $6,500 last year after a resident received pain medication at 20 times the prescribed dose – 5 ml rather than .25 ml – and Hillside Manor Healthcare and Rehab Center, also in north St. Louis, was fined $6,500 in February, 2010 following a resident’s death.

In the Metro East, Midwest Rehab & Respiratory in Belleville faced $31,135 in fines on November 2, 2011 and the Alton Rehab and Nursing Center in Alton was handed $28,500 in penalties early last year. But the most egregious charges against a Metro East nursing home were leveled against Nathan Health Care Center in East St. Louis which was cited for 75 deficiencies, 10 serious deficiencies, labeled a “special focus facility,” and fined $25,000 after “it was determined that the facility failed to protect 6 residents from sexual abuse,” a 2010 report reads.

Three residents, including a man who had recently been released from a federal prison and is referred to only as “Resident 9,” were found, according to the 59-page report, to have sexually assaulted at least a half dozen fellow residents, most of whom were “unable to give informed consent” due to their limited cognitive abilities.

According to investigators, Resident 9 attempted to rape a resident in early 2010, exposing her to Hepatitis C. The report lambasts the center’s staff for not notifying state police of the incident.  “The facility failed to notify the [Police] Department immediately, failed to notify law enforcement officials of a possible sexual abuse/assault, failed to complete a thorough investigation,” a later report on the incident said.

Trying nursing home negligence

Dan Finney, a personal injury attorney with Finney Law Office in St. Louis, handles nursing home abuse cases stemming from “negligent hiring practices, a profits-over-people mentality and sheer laziness,” according to the firm’s website.

But Finney is quick to point out that negligence, as opposed to malice, accounts for most cases. “I’ll see a handful of calls every month…with allegations of negligence,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Usually that’s what we see, an allegation of negligence.”

“If it’s just ordinary negligence, they feel that their loved one is not getting the attention that they need, the thing to do is to make sure they get the attention that they need. So if they have a medical condition that’s not being met, the first thing they should do is contact a medical provider, maybe take them to the hospital,” he added.

Finney declined to speak about specific cases but said he has seen more instances of abuse in the past few years – the years included in the recently-released investigations – than in prior years.

“You’re seeing more people entering into these facilities. So naturally, when there’s more people, there’s going to be more occurrences of negligence. That is part of the problem,” he explained, adding that “people are more aware” that nursing home abuse occurs, further leading to an increase in abuse cases.

“You see negligence in all walks of life. It certainly is part of any service industry. You’re going to see these types of problems happen,” Finney said. “The best thing that a family could do for a loved one who is in an assisted living or nursing home facility is to visit them frequently, to stay in contact with them, to check in on them, to make sure they’re getting the attention that they need.”

KMOX made multiple attempts to contact the Missouri Association of Nursing Home Administrators for comment Thursday but was unsuccessful.

A rundown of fined facilities

Excluding the ten facilities described in detail above, several other area nursing homes have been fined in the past three years, following Health and Human Services investigations.

- Bellefontaine Gardens Nursing & Rehab in St. Louis was cited for 43 deficiencies and fined $2,145 in March, 2010. Among other deficiencies, investigators claimed that staff members were found using cell phones while providing patient care and occasionally referred to residents in a derogatory manner as “Grandma” or “Grandpa.” The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services considers it a 2-star facility in its rating system with one star being the worst rating and five stars being the best.

- Belleville Healthcare & Rehab in Belleville was cited for 48 deficiencies and fined $9,718. It is listed as a 1-star facility.

- Benchmark Healthcare of St. Charles, a 1-star facility, was cited for 47 deficiencies and fined $10,000 in September, 2011.

- Bernard Care Center in St. Louis was cited for 35 deficiencies and was fined $6,500 in January, 2012. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services considers it a 2-star facility.

- Caseyville Nursing & Rehab Center in Caseyville was fined $20,600 for 81 deficiencies, including 31 during an April, 2012 investigation which found that “the facility failed to operationalize its Abuse policy by not reporting allegations of abuse.” It is listed as a 1-star facility.

- Christian Care Home in Ferguson was cited for 58 deficiencies and fined $8,515 in May, 2011 after a confused patient left the facility, unbeknownst to Christian Care staff. Police later found the patient, who was returned safely. It is listed as a 2-star facility.

- Delhaven Manor in St. Louis was cited for 50 deficiencies and was fined $6,500 in October, 2011. It is listed as a 2-star facility.

- Eden Village Care Center in Glen Carbon was cited for 35 deficiencies and fined on three separate occasions, totaling over $26,000. It is considered a 2-star facility.

- Eunice C. Smith Nursing Home in Alton was cited for 18 deficiencies and fined $2,600 in August, 2010. It is considered a 4-star facility.

- Helia Southbelt Healthcare in Belleville has been fined $10,790 for 56 deficiencies since 2010 and is considered a 1-star facility.

- Highland Health Care Center, a 1-star facility in Highland, was cited for 46 deficiencies and fined $7,410 in November, 2010.

- Manor Court of Maryville in Maryville, Illinois was cited for 38 deficiencies and fined $22,300 after a March, 2011 incident in which a patient suffered for days with shortness of breath while his/her physician was not called and the patient died. It is listed as a 2-star facility.

- Parkwood Skilled Nursing And Rehabilitation Center in Maryland Heights was cited for 37 deficiencies and fined $3,800. Parkwood is listed as a 2-star center.

- The Riverview in St. Louis was cited for 19 deficiencies and was fined $6,500 in May, 2011 after “staff did not call 911 or begin CPR for one hour and 20 minutes after they found [a] resident without vital signs.” That resident died. But, despite the incident, the center has been given a 4-star rating.

- Stearns Nursing & Rehab Center in Granite City was cited for 29 deficiencies and fined $24,700 for several incidents, including one in August of last year during which an employee allegedly watched a CNA poke a resident in the head while telling the resident to “shut the f–k up” and calling the resident “a bitch.” The federal report alleges that the facility failed to investigate the incident and allowed the CNA to continue working. Stearns is a 2-star facility, according to investigators.

- Stonebridge Maryland Heights, a 1-star facility in Maryland Heights, was cited for 21 deficiencies and fined $6,500 in March, 2011.

- St. Peters Manor Care Center in Saint Peters was cited for 26 deficiencies and fined $6,500 in June, 2010 after a partially paralyzed resident left the center, pushing his wheelchair into a busy four-lane road. It is listed as a 4-star facility.

- St. Sophia Health & Rehabilitation Center in Florissant was cited for 36 deficiencies and fined $6,500 in October, 2011. It is considered a 1-star facility.

- University Nursing & Rehabilitation in Edwardsville was cited for 25 deficiencies and fined $2,730 in March, 2012. It is a 3-star facility.

The above list does not include all area nursing homes cited for deficiencies, only those which have been fined. A complete list can be found here.

 

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