The battle between trial lawyers and the Alabama Nursing Home Association intensifies and some say patients and their families are caught in the middle.
Is neglect in Alabama nursing homes as widespread as trial lawyers claim, or are state nursing homes “under attack.” NBC13’s Melissa Pace has the story.
In part one, we introduced you to a woman we call “Jane” who feels her mother is being neglected at one area nursing home. She has fought hard for what she says are her mother’s human rights but she insists the inhumane treatment continues.
“Nothing has changed,” she said. “Not one of the things they promised has cleared up in my opinion, they escalated.”
Jane took a home video to show NBC13 her mother’s new home whereJane says her mother is left in her own waste, not being turned and now has developed a bedsore.
A nursing home spokesperson tells NBC13 they have addressed and corrected any problems with Jane’s mother and both parties are now satisfied.
Jane strongly disagrees. At this point, she feels helpless, much like her
Jane has taken every measure she’s aware of to get help, but she says no one is listening. But many other families are taking a different approach they are suing some nursing homes in Alabama for alleged abuse and neglect.
“There are an awful lot of lawsuits,” said Marie Tomlin. “Facilities are having to spend a long time on lawsuits rather than spending time takingcare or residents.
Tomlin is the Alabama Ombudsman — a state-funded program to help patients and family members resolve problems without going to court. Tomlin insists attorneys are used unnecessarily far too often.
A spokesperson for Alabama’s Nursing Home Association declined to be interviewed for this story. But NBC13 did obtain a recent press release from the association, which states trial lawyers drain more than $54 million a year from patient care in Alabama’s nursing homes.
The money that goes into trial lawyers would provide three additional registered nurses, five licensed practical nurses or six certified nursing assistants for every nursing home in Alabama.
It also states the cost of liability insurance expenses covered by state Medicaid increased by 383 percent in just one year. But plaintiff attorney Jerry Taylor says that’s the nursing homes fault, not his.
“I would defy any of them to show a connection with lawsuits and insurance rates that has anything to do with it,” Taylor said.
So are patients feeling the effects of lawsuits allegedly draining Alabama nursing homes?
“I can say that some are — how many, I just don’t know but just in what we have seen there is neglect out there. That’s usually in the bad homes, not in the better homes,” said Velva Harless, a certified nursing aid.
Harless says she worked in one of those “bad homes.”
“My first year there, a man was so badly beaten from his shoulders to his legs,” she said. “Two girls did this. One is still working as a CNA today.”
Harless says she stayed at the nursing home to try and help the patients but after nearly five years, what she had witnessed over and over again had taken its toll on her emotionally, she finally quit.
“Lawyers started contacting me through patients that were there and I thought if I could just help one I did my part,” Harless said.
She’s been a witness in numerous cases of alleged abuse and neglect. The nursing homes dispute these claims but a company spokesperson would not comment further.
Taylor says his firm alone expects to file more than 100 lawsuits against various nursing homes by year’s end. But that’s what the Alabama Nursing Home Association is trying to avoid.
Flyers like were recently sent to families statewide claiming nursing homes are under attack by trail lawyers and discouraging family members from calling lawyers.
It states millions of dollars are going into lawyer’s pockets, millions that could go to more staff, better training, and better facilities. The flyer also refers to a federal government survey that ranks Alabama nursing homes No.1 in the Southeast in the hours of direct nursing care each resident receives.
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