Natural disasters expose nursing home abuse and neglectTwo high-profile nursing home incidents that occurred in different states during the recent hurricanes exemplify the problem of abuse and neglect in U.S. nursing homes. The stories expose the disturbing and shameful actions of companies charged with the responsibility to care for residents who are unable to care for themselves. These facilities are financially compensated by individuals, families and government health care programs to ensure they provide proper care.

Beasley Allen is publishing a series of stories about nursing home abuse and neglect. This week’s post is dedicated to the nursing home residents whose tragic stories have helped propel nursing home abuse and neglect issues into the national spotlight.

Lake Arthur Place and Cypress Glen Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers in Port Arthur, Texas

After Hurricane Harvey flooded Lake Arthur Place on Aug. 30, nursing home administrators and staff assured concerned relatives that they were working with authorities to move residents. Tonya Petix was not calmed by the nursing home’s assurances, according to KHOU. She hitched a ride on a boat over to the facility and when she arrived, waded through waist-high, cold water to get to the facility’s front doors. Once inside she found her 77-year-old mother in her wheelchair submerged in water. Petix believes her mother had been there for approximately 19 hours and during that time only had half a sandwich to eat and one bottle of water.

Petix’s mother Rosaria Leboeuf was just one of the 70 patients trapped in flood waters that were contaminated with the residents’ own urine and feces. A photo of another resident sitting in a wheelchair submerged in water went viral when it was posted to Twitter – sparking outcry for immediate action.

When local police officers, other first responders and volunteers showed up to help move the residents, nursing home administrator Jeff Rosetta pushed police detective Mike Herbert out of the way and attempted to block the evacuations. The nursing home official questioned Detective Herbert’s authority despite the detective providing official credentials and being in full uniform, KFDM reported. Officers had to restrain Rosetta in order to rescue the residents.

Rosetta is now at the center of civil and criminal investigations.

Although reports indicate no resident died while trapped inside the nursing home, family members spoke out about the injuries and inhumane treatment suffered by their loved ones. Petix particularly feels let down by the nursing home she trusted to provide dignity and care for her mom. She refers to the deplorable actions as “an epic failure on their part.”

CBS News noted that Senior Care Centers, the parent company of the nursing home, posted a statement on Facebook more than a week later. The statement defended the facility’s failure by offering useless excuses, while rebuking the efforts of local law enforcement and others who stepped in to rescue the patients.

Florida’s Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood

The scene in a Broward County, Florida nursing home on Sept. 13 following Hurricane Irma was even more tragic, according to Righting Injustice. Three residents were found dead when firefighters conducted a welfare check after first responders received several calls from residents seeking outside help. Five additional residents died later that day and the deaths of two more residents have since been linked to the conditions the residents suffered at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, ABC News reports.

The nursing home reported a power outage, which lasted for several days. The facility did not have a working backup generator and did not request assistance for its residents when contacted by Broward County officials, Righting Injustice reports. Residents spent hours in stifling heat and enduring the putrid smell of their own excrement despite being located mere steps from one of the state’s largest hospitals, which never lost power and remained operational throughout the hurricane.

All the residents were evacuated and were treated for dehydration, breathing difficulties and other heat-related problems. USA Today reports that when the patients finally received treatment at least four patients had bodily temperatures registering at 107 degrees, 108.3 degrees, 108.5 degrees and 109.9 degrees.

Governor Rick Scott ordered state officials to thoroughly investigate the incident and the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) issued a moratorium blocking the facility from admitting any other patients. The Florida Department of Health calls the event “tragic and senseless,” and suspended the facility’s license.

In response to state actions, Hollywood Hills lawyers filed a lawsuit complaining that the state’s actions were unfair and asked Judge James O. Shelfer to issue a temporary injunction against the AHCA’s orders.

The atrocious actions and disgraceful responses from the two nursing homes should come as no surprise to consumers. As Beasley Allen has previously reported, the nursing home industry consistently fails to protect residents and has been fighting, with the help of its largest lobbying arm the American Health Care Association, to block a federal rule that would protect consumers’ rights to hold facilities accountable for such actions.

The group was also responsible for defeating state legislation in 2006 that would have required Florida nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to have working generators in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, according to The New York Times. The legislation was revived earlier this month by state Senator Lauren Book.

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If you need more information on nursing home litigation contact Chris Boutwell at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris handles nursing home litigation for our firm, and he will be glad to talk with you.

CBS News
Righting Injustice
ABC News
USA Today
Beasley Allen
The New York Times
Senator Lauren Book

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