A troubling case of nursing home abuse and neglect recently surfaced in New York, where authorities say the owners of the for-profit center sapped public funds while significantly reducing services, resulting in neglect, abuse and, in at least one case, the death of a 72-year-old patient.
Our nursing home abuse attorneys know that for-profit nursing homes in general have a terrible track record with regard to abuse and neglect, particularly when compared to not-for-profit facilities.
Profit is a powerful motivator for these facilities, and a Bloomberg investigation in 2001 found that 32 percent of charges billed to the federal government by for-profit nursing homes were improper. That was compared to 12 percent by non-profit centers. The reason this matters is because when patients are forced to undergo treatments, diagnostics and procedures that are unnecessary, it can be to their detriment. In some cases, patients end up severely injured.
The Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 2012 that nursing homes billed $1.5 billion in improper charges in 2009.
Other federal investigations have shown that for-profit facilities are more prone to skimp on staff to save money, putting patients at risk for neglect.
In the New York case, according to authorities, facility owners “looted” some $60 million – 22 percent of its Medicaid funding – for personal use over the course of 10 years. While they had represented to the government that those funds were to be spent for upgrades and improved staffing at the facility, in reality, the six related owners were not using the money for this purpose. Instead, they paid themselves exorbitant salaries, funded their family-run private charities and offered an employee loan program.
In addition to filing a civil lawsuit, the state attorney general has initiated the arrest of seven employees accused of allegedly allowing or covering up a woman’s death. Two more were arrested for patient neglect.
This was after 17 nurses and aides pleaded guilty to neglect and falsification of records. The state’s health department had previously cited the center with 130 violations of state regulations, averaging 15 annually. Since 2008, there had been some 5,000 adverse incidents and accidents reported at the facility.
In a nearly 60-page lawsuit, officials laid forth in graphic detail the decrepit and in some instances deadly conditions present at the 320-bed facility, which first opened its doors in 2003.
A walk-through of the building indicated an immediate problem when inspectors were hit with a strong smell of urine throughout the facility and on the patients. In common living areas, no staffers were present checking on patients.
The son of one resident had complained to authorities that his father had fallen six times since he was admitted to the facility last summer. In one case, the resident suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.
Another resident had to be treated for a broken back. Workers at the facility could offer no explanation of how it happened.
Neglect of one 72-year-old woman at the facility reportedly resulted in her death. Officials say she died after workers failed to attach her to a ventilator machine, as ordered by her doctor. Several of the workers were charged with making false claims after they reportedly lied about not hearing the alarms that began sounding when the patient stopped breathing.
Anytime a facility places profits before patients, there are bound to be problems. Given the rise of for-profit nursing homes in the country, we fully anticipate seeing more cases like this in the coming years.
Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
AG: $60M ‘looted’ from Medford nursing home; patient’s death cited, Feb. 11, 2014, By William Murphy and Ellen Yan, Newsday
More Blog Entries:
Florida Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements: Neither Wise Nor Necessary, Part 2, Jan. 31, 2014, Indian River County Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog