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Southern Nursing Home Operator Accused of Profits Over Patients

Port St. Lucie nursing home negligence attorneys know that all too often in the elder care industry, facilities will put profits ahead of patients.

That is, they will reduce staff, scrimp on cleaning and hold off on critical services – all in the interest of saving a few bucks.

Of course, those who suffer are the vulnerable adults left in their care.

A case out of Mississippi illustrates this point all too well. There, federal authorities are joining in the whistleblower lawsuit, claiming that the facility operator withheld care in order to pad his own pockets.

The suit, filed by the facility itself against the former operator, says that money that was paid by Medicaid and Medicare to the facility was not spent on its intended purpose. If treatment or services were provided, the suit contends, it was so lacking as to be essentially worthless.

It’s also alleged that the operator, who ran the facility for seven years, ending in the spring of this year, held off on hiring necessary employees and withheld critical supplies. This allowed the home to run down, while providing just the bare minimum of cash necessary to keep the home running. Items that he reportedly rationed in order to hoard cash included:

–Laundry bags;
–Medical tubing;
–Garbage bags;
–Oxygen bottles.

In some cases, staff members were asked to put off cashing their checks until the operator could make sure he had enough in the bank.

It’s one thing to be a miser with your own money. But when your greed results in others suffering – which is exactly what happened here – it’s downright criminal.

According to media reports, residents of the facility suffered high levels of dehydration, malnutrition, falls, pressure sores and ulcers. In one case, a patient who was complaining of leg pain was found to have a snake in her bed. Patients frequently complained of hunger. On at least one occasion, and administrator used her own money to purchase snacks for the residents.

State officials say that in addition to clearly placing his own profits over the needs of the patients, the administrator may very well have committed Medicare fraud through false claims.

Interestingly, the operator owns some 35 nursing homes across the state – including one in Lake City, Florida. This lawsuit alleges that the operator’s actions are part of a larger scheme to bilk nursing home facilities for cash, while allowing residents to suffer and leaving creditors hanging.

If the lawsuit is successful, it’s possible the operator could face triple the damages for any money his companies raked in from federal programs. That’s in addition to civil penalties.

Often, families of Port St. Lucie nursing home residents won’t be able to tell right away whether this kind of negligence is occurring, because you’re not privy to the accounting books. However, you will be able to tell if your loved one is suffering from a substandard level of care. Some specific things to watch out for include:

–Complaints of painful abrasions or blisters;
–Poor hygiene;
–Constant thirst or very dry skin;
–Bedding that is soiled;
–Weakness or unexplained weight loss;
–Hazardous or unsafe living conditions;

Any of these should be a red flag that your loved one may be suffering from neglect. If this is the case, call us today.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Feds join Lumberton nursing home lawsuit, Dec. 10, 2012, Staff Report, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
Will Broward Nursing Home Neglect Spike With Medicaid Cuts?, Nov. 30, 2012, Port St. Lucie Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys’ Blog

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