In the past 10 years in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has taken measures to close only four nursing homes. Earlier this year, after investigating complaints against Golden Living Nursing Home in Trussville, Ala., the ADPH recommended that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cease payment of benefits on behalf of residents who received care at the facility because of the facility’s histories of violations. The cessation of Medicare and Medicaid payments has resulted in the owners and operators of this facility having to shut down the facility. It was stated by AL.com:
Dr. W.T. Geary, medical director of the Bureau of Health Provider Standards at the [ADPH], said the facility had been under the microscope for some time. Golden Living Center in Trussville had been on a federal list of low-performing nursing homes for 45 months, much longer than most other facilities on the same list.
CMS makes available the results of investigations to the public. The CMS website reveals that this facility had multiple deficiencies, issues and violations in 2013 to the present, which included:
- failing to protect its residents from abuse;
- failing to provide appropriate training and policies on the prevention, identification and reporting of resident abuse;
- walls and sprinkler systems that were substandard;
- failing to minimize medication errors;
- failing to ensure that each resident’s drug regimen was free of unnecessary drugs and was properly managed for the highest level of well-being;
- failing to have sufficient controls in place to minimize the risks of infections;
- failing to keep proper clinical records on certain of its residents;
- failing to minimize the use of restraints;
- failing to provide proper care to minimizes the formation of bedsores and pressure ulcers;
- failing to provide proper care and treatment to residents with feeding tubes so as to reduce the risks of aspiration, pneumonia, and other health-related concerns;
- failing to encourage and help to restore feeding skills for patients with feeding tubes;
- failing to provide appropriate drug and medication protocols and management for emergency drugs;
- failing to assist those patients who need assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as eating, drinking, grooming and personal and oral hygiene; and
- failing to follow standards with respect to implementing and maintaining catheters in its residents and reducing the risks of urinary tract infections.
The closure of this nursing home facility is a good reminder about the importance on the part of family members and sponsors to closely monitor the care of a resident in a nursing home. It is also a good reminder about the importance of researching a facility to determine the rates of deficiencies and what, if anything, the facility has done to properly and timely remedy those deficiencies.
While ADPH investigators and other state and federal agencies can determine some deficiencies on their own, these agencies rely heavily upon reporting by residents, family members and current and former staff of these facilities. If you are aware of deficiencies in a nursing home, it is imperative that you contact the ADPH. This agency has a website and by following the link the information to file a complaint can be determined. (See ADPH.org.)
While there are private services that keep up with critical information, Medicare.gov has a search engine available that permits potential residents and their families to search for specific nursing homes. This information can be found at www.medicare.gov/NHCompare. Medicare.gov uses a five-star system to rate nursing homes and various aspects of their patient care. This federal agency also provides valuable resources that should assist family members in evaluating different nursing homes.
While closure of a nursing home often causes great hardship on residents and their family members, on rare occasions this is necessary for the betterment of all residents. If you need more information relating to nursing home litigation, contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our firm who handles Nursing Home Litigation, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.