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The attorneys at Gallivan & Gallivan provide effective, aggressive representation to individuals injured in the New York area. Our priority is to maximize the recovery of our clients injured due to the neglect of others.

The Department of Veteran Affairs released its first report on the status of its nursing homes this month and the results show widespread neglect and abuse at the government-run facilities, perhaps even worse than the well-documented problems seen in its private-care counterpart. The federal government is responsible for caring for the country’s 40,000 veterans and, according to its own report, is doing a poor job. The report analyzed 99 VA nursing homes across the country and reported the findings of surprise inspections conducted by outside contractors. The VA spokesperson said that releasing the report in its entirety is part of a new push by the agency for transparency and accountability.

The findings of the report are daunting. Eleven of the 99 nursing homes were so unsafe that veteran safety was in “immediate jeopardy.” More than half of the nursing homes (52) were deficient enough to cause “actual harm” to their veteran residents. “That is really bad. It’s really bad,” Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a nursing home advocacy nonprofit told USA Today.

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New York’s Department of Health appears unable to adequately monitor the nursing homes across the state and hold poor performers accountable. Elder care advocates say the state agency must reform to protect senior citizens from poor care and nursing home abuse. Thankfully, legislators in Albany appear to finally be listening.

According to The Buffalo News, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples Stokes is co-sponsoring a bill regulating the number of nurses at each assisted care facility in the state. The appropriately named Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act would mandate that each nursing home have RNs (registered nurses) and that practical nurses and CNAs (certified nursing assistants) spend a minimum of 291 minutes with each resident. According to federal data, nursing staff levels are the largest indicator of whether a nursing home is providing quality care to its residents. Unfortunately, the same federal data shows that most nursing homes are grossly deficient when it comes to staffing. According to a study released in January 2019, only 7.5 percent of nursing homes across the state currently satisfy the requirements laid out in the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.

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Outrage continues to grow at the poor quality of care being delivered at a New York nursing home. According to an investigation by News10NBC, Sodus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Sodus, New York is still violating numerous state regulations about the treatment of its senior citizens. The local news agency began investigating Sodus Rehab several years ago and, unfortunately, it does not appear that the quality of care has improved over time. According to the New York Department of Health, the nursing home received 90 citations for health and safety violations in just the last four years. In New York, the average number of violations per nursing home is approximately 30.

After undercover investigations by News10NBC last year showed unsafe and unsanitary conditions, Sodus Rehab says they “cleaned house” and brought in new administrators. Unfortunately, the new staffers do not appear to have fixed any of the nursing home’s problems. In one particularly egregious example cited by the news, Bill Tanner, a nursing home resident with leukemia, dementia and “other health issues,” developed bedsores that one doctor described as “some of the worst” he had ever seen. Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers or pressure injuries, could have been easily prevented in Tanner, according to the doctors. Perhaps even more horrifically, the bedsores were only noticed because a former neighbor visiting Tanner noticed a foul smell in the room. According to the neighbor, she asked for a registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse to attend to the elderly man. Sodus Rehab staff said that neither was on-duty at the time.

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Government regulators and lawmakers appear finally ready to do something about the widespread use of antipsychotics at nursing homes. These powerful drugs are often prescribed to residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia by nursing homes hoping to sedate them. Not only are these drugs not an approved treatment for these conditions, but antipsychotic drugs also have a range of serious side effects and drug interactions. In the elderly, antipsychotic medications substantially increase the risk of falls. Sadly, the practice of prescribing dangerous, unnecessary antipsychotic medication is widespread in the nursing home industry. The federal government reports that approximately 16 percent of nursing home residents take antipsychotics.

Thankfully, the government appears ready to tackle widespread nursing home abuse. In a letter to US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the government agency responsible for regulating nursing homes, Rep. Richard Neil excoriates the nursing home industry’s illegal prescribing habits and the government agency for inadequate enforcement. Rep. Neil described instances of nursing homes who “falsified diagnosis” and failed to attain informed consent, all for the purpose of sedating a patient with unnecessary antipsychotics. The Democrat then sharply criticized CMS saying that “nursing facilities are getting away with this practice.” According to Rep. Neil, nursing homes are “neither being cited nor penalized.”

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An expert on pressure injuries, also called bedsores or pressure injuries, recommends nursing homes adopt a more individualized approach to preventing and treating the painful and sometimes deadly sores. In an opinion-editorial in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, Jean Wendland Porter, Regional Director of Therapy Operations at Diversified Health Partners, discusses problems commonly associated with pressure ulcers and alternative approaches that will be more effective at reducing bedsores. In one example, Porter notes the common medical advice to “move a patient around every two hours” fails to take a patient’s ability to move by themselves or any aggravating factors that could make the patient more likely to develop a bedsore, such as a higher BMI or a weakened immune system. According to Porter, the “two hours” rule is not based in science at all and originates in World War II where it was deemed the most efficient method for delivering care to bedridden soldiers.

Instead of following arbitrary, “one-size-fits-all” medical recommendations, Porter likens pressure ulcer prevention measures to selecting a mattress – tailored to the patient’s comfort and healthcare plan. Porter says the best practice involves a “pressure-mapping” solution which displays any pressure points on the patient’s body. With those results, a healthcare plan is developed which includes pressure-relieving devices on areas of the body at high risk for pressure ulcers. This customized plan for each nursing home resident will need to be continually revised as mobility and healthcare needs change.

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Recent data published by Nursing Home 411 shows America’s nursing homes continue to struggle with low levels of nursing staff. Adequate staffing is one of the most important factors in providing quality care to nursing home residents. Unfortunately, the nursing home industry has a widespread problem in staffing their facilities with a sufficient number of nurses and medical personnel. The data analyzed by the nonprofit group included all nursing homes receiving Medicare in 2018. The highlights published by Nursing Home 411 include:

  • Nursing homes spend an average of just 3.5 staff hours with each resident, per day. According to the nursing home advocacy group, the federal government states a minimum of 4.1 hours is required for the average resident.

 

  • Nursing homes spend only 0.5 registered nurse staff hours with each resident, per day. A registered nurse is typically more capable and better educated compared to certified nursing assistants. Another federal study cited by Nursing Home 411 recommended increasing registered nurse hours by 10 to 50 percent each day to satisfactorily meet each nursing home resident’s healthcare needs.

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After what one upstate nursing home doctor called the “worst bedsore ever seen” killed a once-healthy resident, the elderly man’s son is demanding accountability from the negligent nursing home. Four months after entering Safire Rehabilitation of Northtowns, the 82-year-old Frank L. Williams passed away from an entirely preventable bedsore, also called a pressure ulcer. According to The Buffalo News, Williams’ hospital records list cardiac arrest caused by sepsis, a deadly infection resulting from his bedsores, as the cause of death. According to the New York Department of Health, the number of residents developing bedsores at Safire Rehabilitation is almost double the state average. In the last few years, the number of bedsores has increased at the nursing home.

Speaking to The Buffalo News, Williams son describes his father’s experience at Safire Rehabilitation as a nightmare from the beginning. After suffering a stroke, Williams was released by the local hospital to Safire Rehabilitation. The nursing home apparently accepted the elderly man without having space to treat him, which caused him to spend his first three days in long-term care instead of the rehabilitation unit. Williams son describes the nursing home as windowless and reeking of urine. The nursing staff ignored his father’s pleas to move him around, necessary to prevent a bedsore from developing. After spending three months at Safire Rehabilitation, Williams doctors told his son there was a “little pressure sore” and refused to let the son see the wound.

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The police have arrested a nurse who is reportedly responsible for sexually assaulting a nursing home resident who has been in a vegetative state since 1993. According to The New York Times, the nursing home resident and mother has been under the care of Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix since 1993, when she was only four-years-old. The Arizona nursing home said it did not know the woman, who has not been identified by Phoenix police, was pregnant. Upon the birth of her child, police required all male staff members to provide DNA samples. The police then identified the father as 36-year-old Nathan Dorceus Sutherland and charged him for sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult.

Speaking on behalf of the woman’s family, a representative described the woman as possessing “significant intellectual disabilities” and is only able to move her limbs, head, neck and respond to sound. The representative called for a full investigation into Hacienda HealthCare and the staff responsible for the woman’s care. State legislators have not wasted any time in responding to the horrific abuse that occurred at the nursing home. On January 30, the nursing home came under new ownership. Earlier in January, the two doctors responsible for the woman’s care and the CEO of the facility were removed from their positions.

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Two registered nurses and one certified nurse aid were convicted in a Nassau County courtroom for willful violation of health laws in a tragic case that led to the death of an 81-year-old nursing home resident at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Unionville, NY, according to LongIsland.com. According to prosecutors, the elderly resident – both ventilator-dependent and in a wheelchair – somehow became disconnected from his ventilator, rending him unable to breathe.

In situations of life-and-death, the nursing home utilizes distinct auditory and visual alarms that sound throughout the unit. Despite the sounding of the alarm and its ubiquity across the entire nursing home, the two nurses, Sijimole Reji and Annieamma Augustine, along with the certified nurse aid, Martine Morland, did not respond for a full nine minutes. By the time the ventilator was reconnected, the elderly woman was unconscious and passed away the next day.

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CMS is preparing to fine nursing home staff and volunteers for refusing to report elder abuse, the agency announced. While the federal agency has been able to fine nursing homes for failing to report abuse, a recent government report showed that crimes against the elderly are still commonplace in nursing homes across the country. The report chided CMS, or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for failing to protect America’s senior citizens and recommended aggressive action.

A federal law enacted in 2011 gives CMS the authority to fine individual staff and volunteers at nursing homes across the country, according to Modern Healthcare. The government agency said it will begin seeking civil monetary penalties (or CMPs) of up to $200,000 for staff and volunteers who fail to “report reasonable suspicion of crimes.” The proposed regulation would also protect “whistleblowers” by withdrawing all federal funds from any nursing homes who retaliate against them.

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