When it comes to combating nursing home abuse and neglect, one of the most effective tools is prevention.
However, our North Carolina nursing home abuse attorneys realize that in order for family members to choose even a decent facility for their loved one, they have to be armed with information. They need to know details about deficiencies, problems with over-medication and allegations of abuse and neglect. But that information hasn’t always been readily available.
Last year, the Medicare program unveiled its Nursing Home Compare site, which provides some information. But news organization ProPublica took it a step further, compiling a database of information by pressing the government for un-redacted inspection and deficiency reports, as well as information on fines.
As it turns out, North Carolina ranks in the top 20 for nursing home fines. Additionally, about 20 percent of all nursing homes in the state have been cited for serious deficiencies — or those failures that pose a serious risk to patient health and well-being.
It’s worth noting that serious deficiencies are often greatly under-reported, as inspectors often overlook or aim to minimize problems that pose an immediate threat to patients. That’s according to research by the Government Accountability Office, which found commonly under-reported deficiencies included instances of serious bedsores, over-medication, malnutrition and even outright abuse.
In the last three years, North Carolina nursing home facilities have been slapped with nearly $5 million in penalties for such deficiencies.
The state also has four special focus facilities, or those that have been flagged by the government as having a long history of serious issues with quality. (Yet they remain in operation.)
The very worst of those was a facility in Nashville, NC, just outside of Raleigh. (Unsurprisingly, it’s a for-profit facility, which are known to have higher rates of abuse, neglect, fraud and waste, according to a new report by Bloomberg News.) This facility alone accounts for 11 percent of the deficiency fines in the state. The 60-bed facility has racked up nearly 55 deficiencies during that time.
In the most recent inspection report, issued in April of last year, the facility failed to immediately inform residents’, their doctors and their family members of negative side effects of psychoactive medications (which are notably over-prescribed for dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers as a way to control patient behavior, as opposed to having any therapeutic value for the patient).
Other deficiencies included failure to provide adequate housekeeping and maintenance services, failure to ensure patients with limited mobility were regularly moved (which leads to bedsores), failure to ensure each patient is not receiving unnecessary drugs, failure to have adequate procedures in place to reduce incidents of infectious diseases and a failure to have medications reviewed monthly by a licensed pharmacist.
Another facility in Rutherfordton, about an hour north of Spartanburg, SC, was cited in February and again in June of last year for serious deficiencies, including a failure to protect all patients from abuse, physical punishment, after a male resident was found to have sexually assaulted at least four female residents. No abuse investigation was launched, despite multiple complaints, and the offender was allowed to remain in regular living quarters with the others, though nurses had warned one another to “keep an eye out” for him.
We wish we could say such instances are rare. Unfortunately, they are not.
Family members should avail themselves of the opportunity to review these reports, both before placing a loved on in a nursing home and then regularly once they are there.
If your loved one has been harmed by nursing home abuse or negligence in North Carolina, contact Lee Law Offices P.A.at 1-800-887-1965.
Nursing Home Inspect: Find Nursing Home Problems in Your State, North Carolina, Dec. 27, 2012, ProPublica
Feds Release Nursing Home Inspections, Free of Censor’s Marks, Jan. 9, 2013, By Charles Ornstein, ProPublica
More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Exec’s Prison Sentence a Reminder that Elder Care is Big Business in North Carolina, July 29, 2012, North Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog