A recent article in The Wall Street Journal decried the increase of nursing home abuse lawsuits resulting in six-figure settlements or verdicts, prompting some in the industry to pack up and close shop.
The Journal is a decidedly pro-business publication, and took the tack that this series of events was a bad thing.
Despite the grim picture this and other media outlets paint, personal injury attorneys are not anti-business. Rather, we’re against bad businesses. When a for-profit nursing home promises top quality care to vulnerable, aging residents, it rakes in huge revenues – both from private pockets and the government. When it then fails to deliver on that care, resulting in serious harm or death, that company should probably no longer be in business. At the very least, there should be a sincere evaluation of the firm’s core values and direction.
Our Boca Raton nursing home abuse lawyers understand that when nursing homes with poor care standards exit the market, everyone benefits. It makes more room for growth of those facilities that are working hard to maintain the highest standards of care, and creates a safer environment for our elderly loved ones. When companies know there will be accountability if strict standards aren’t met, most will strive harder to reach those goals.
For example, the Journal article chronicles the woes of a Canadian firm called Extendicare Health Services Inc, one of the biggest nursing home chains in the country, with nearly two dozen locations in West Virginia Delaware and Pennsylvania. In those states, it planned to lease the locations to a third-party operator. The company already closed all its facility doors in Kentucky two years ago.
The company cited a quadruple increase in liability claims in recent years, despite what it said was an “improving” quality record. It recently paid-out the largest-ever nursing home negligence settlement for $38 million. Sounds unfortunate, right?
But that’s not how the U.S. Justice Department described it. First of all, the company owns about 150 nursing homes in 11 states. This is a highly profitable firm. Federal prosecutors went after the company for two reasons: It was reportedly committing fraud by billing too much for physical therapy services, and it was also providing “such poor care to residents that it was effectively worthless.”
Prosecutors say the company didn’t hire enough nurses who were trained to care for patients in at least 33 homes, leading to serious and pervasive problems that included failure to prevent head injuries, falls and severe bed sores. Officials say the care was so poor, some patients were dehydrated and malnourished, and some developed preventable infections that led to hospitalizations.
These facilities are chronically understaffed, to the point where they sometimes are not able to provide even basic care. Rather than pay for more workers, the company skimps in order to line their own pockets.
These are not minor mistakes or oversights by a single rogue worker. These are systematic flaws and fraud in the operation of these facilities that resulted in serious and lasting harm to patients. Should we worry much that this company has lost some of its government profits or must hire another firm to take the helm at some locations?
Here’s the reality: More than 1.4 million people life in nursing homes in the U.S. today, and nearly 70 percent of those reside at for-profit facilities. In 15 years, according to U.S. Census Bureau, estimations, we’re going to have 73 million people over the age of 65 (that’s 1 in 5 Americans), and many of those are going to suffer form the kinds of chronic conditions and diseases that are going to require help from nursing homes.
All this means we may continue to see a boom in nursing home facilities. But we have to make sure those that rise to meet the increasing demand are doing so holding patient care in the highest regard. Some of these facilities are highly dependent on government funds, like Medicaid, to survive. But there is nothing wrong with insisting that companies that accept taxpayer money to care for elderly patients do so in a way that is honest and beneficial to the patient.
Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Lawsuits Rattle Nursing Home Chains, Oct. 3, 2014, By Jennifer Smith, The Wall Street Journal
Chain to Pay $38 Million of Claims of Poor Care, Oct. 10, 2014, By Katie Thomas, New York Times
More Blog Entries:
Carl v. Muskegon Cnty. – Vetting Nursing Home Staffers, Sept. 10, 2014, Boca Raton Nursing Home Lawyer Blog