Nursing homes across the country are watching closely the recent lawsuit filed by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, who alleges inadequate staffing levels made it mathematically impossible to provide an appropriate level of care to elderly patients.
It’s an interesting strategy in that while there are some specific allegations of neglect, the primary source of contention is the failure to provide enough staff. The lawsuit is against for-profit nursing home chain Preferred Care Partners Management Group. The company is based in Texas, but operates dozens of nursing homes in in 10 states – including Florida. It is deemed the 10th-largest nursing home chain in the country. It has collected some $230 million from state and federal government coffers since 2008, and it houses roughly 1 million residents nationally.
Observers say if the New Mexico lawsuit is successful, other states may well follow suit. The lawsuit targets seven facilities operating within that state. The company runs the top four worst-performing nursing homes in that state, according to quality grading provided by the federal website Nursing Home Compare. Those facilities reported more than six times the average number of safety and health care violations as compared to other centers nationwide.
Our Boynton Beach nursing home abuse attorneys understand the lawsuit alleges certified nursing assistants employed by the firm had just 25 minutes each day to interact one-on-one with patients. Compare that to the national average, which is a ratio of 2.5 hours of one-on-one time with CNAs and patients.
The company told an Associated Press reporter it had yet to see the complaint, but believed it targeted practices of the facilities prior to its purchase of those centers in 2012. The state attorney general countered the allegations were specific to not only prior conduct, but current practices too.
Part of the attorney general’s lawsuit stems from the assertion the firm wrongly represented itself as able to provide sufficient care for its residents – which it had to do in order to collect those hundreds of millions of dollars from the government. However, the staffing levels would seem to suggest such a feat would be impossible.
This case is also interesting for the fact most nursing home abuse and negligence allegations are brought forth by whistleblowers or when there is a solid, identifiable pattern of care lapses (numerous falls, unexplained deaths, consistent hygiene problems on inspection). Few attorneys general bring forth such claims on their own. Here, authorities are reportedly relying on confidential witnesses within the facilities’ own staff. Some were distressed they had no time to promptly change diapers, reposition patients to prevent bed sores or sometimes even feed patients, leaving them occasionally deprived of food and water.
One witness told investigators her father, a patient at the facility, complained of being hungry and dirty. Staff at the facility told her they simply didn’t have enough time to complete these tasks, so she took over feeding and bathing him each day. And yet, the facility continued to collect a government paycheck for performing these tasks.
In another case, an 86-year-old retired chemist reportedly died of complications from a dislocated hip after a fall. His family in a civil lawsuit later asserted the fall would never have happened had he been provided adequate assistance getting in and out of bed to use the restroom.
What’s more, the attorney general says the centers boosted the number of nursing assistants at the facility during state inspections, making it appear as if staffing levels were more adequate than it actually was.
Florida law mandates certified nursing assistants spend at least 2.5 hours daily with each patient in order to prevent falls, infections, bedsores and other potentially life-threatening health risks.
If you suspect your loved one has been neglected or abused in a nursing home, call us today.
Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
New Mexico Sues Nursing Home Chain On Care, Staff, Dec. 5, 2014, By Jeff Horwitz and Susan Montoya, Associated Press
More Blog Entries: Report:
Low-Rated Nursing Homes Receive Billions in Taxpayer-Backed Loans, Nov. 27, 2014, Boynton Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog