Articles Posted in Sexual Abuse

Victims of nursing home abuse and industry stakeholders gathered in Washington this month for a Senate hearing on the nursing home industry. In addition to hearing testimony from the families of nursing home abuse, the federal legislators sounded the alarm over a looming fight over Medicaid funding. According to Skilled Nursing News, the Trump administration will propose its plans to convert Medicaid funding into a “block-grant model.”

According to proponents of the new model of funding, Medicaid spending has spiraled out-of-control and the federal health insurance scheme is no longer sustainable. Instead of continuing with the current open-ended model, the federal government will fund a predetermined amount each year for a state’s Medicaid program. The amount will likely depend on the number of Medicaid beneficiaries in the state, among other factors. The idea for overhauling Medicaid’s open-ended funding model into a block grant system has been favored by Republicans for a long time and finally reached a fever-pitch during the Affordable Care debate in 2017.

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New York State is proactively training nursing home staff how to be “better whistleblowers” whenever nursing home abuse or neglect is suspected. Describing the training as “the first of its kind” across the country, The Buffalo News said the New York Department of Health trained nursing home workers on submitting reports with important details, which include the “time and location of the alleged infractions” as well as any possible witnesses or other relevant information. The health department, which is responsible for overseeing nursing homes in New York, encouraged filing these “comprehensive complaints” in certain situations such as when the nursing home lacked adequate staffing, when important medical devices are malfunctioning, or anything else that puts the health and safety of nursing home patients in jeopardy.

Currently, anyone can file an anonymous report with the state health department. While staffers are obligated to report some instances of nursing home abuse under the state’s “mandatory reporter” laws, elder care advocates say this law is difficult to enforce. The state also prevents nursing homes from retaliating against any employee who files a report or cooperates with an investigation against the facility.

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The Senate Finance Committee examined the “crisis” of nursing home abuse in an emotional hearing this month. Families of abused nursing home patients told their tragic stories and frustrations with the lack of government oversight. In one of the testimonies before the Senators, Maya Fischer tearily detailed the sexual assault her mother suffered at a five-star rated nursing home in Minnesota. According to prosecutors who later charged a nursing home staffer for the rape, the predator had been suspended three times by the nursing home while they investigated sexual assault allegations. In two of these instances, the nursing home staffer who attacked Fischer’s mother was the main suspect.

Fischer described her “final memories of my mother’s life… watching her bang uncontrollably on her private parts for days after the rape, with tears rolling down her eyes, apparently trying to tell me what had been done to her but unable to speak due to her disease.” According to CNN, Fischer’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Fischer says she is now speaking out to prevent her family’s tragedy from occurring to anyone else.

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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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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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Elder abuse is one of the most widespread and under-reported problems in the country. However, despite the prevalence of elder mistreatment, the federal government does not gather data or require reporting for the crime against America’s senior citizens. With the population of Americans over the age of 65 expected to double by 2050, elder care advocates are urging the federal government to stiffen enforcement and begin tracking elder abuse cases across the country.

Elder abuse encompasses a wide range of illegal behaviors, from sexual abuse and financial exploitation to outright neglect by family members, caretakers, or nursing homes. Unfortunately, the federal government has not provided states with a precise definition of what behaviors constitute “elder abuse” and therefore, the exact definition varies depending on the state. When the federal government attempted to gather data on the subject for the first time this year, federal bureaucrats described the data received from states as incomplete, according to USA Today.

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Over a decade after a scathing article in the New York Post about the low-quality of care provided in many New York City nursing homes, the problem continues unabated at many nursing facilities. In 2006, the New York Department of Health fined 48 nursing homes in the five boroughs – including eight with violations so severe that nursing home residents were in “immediate jeopardy.” These nursing homes included:

  • United Odd Fellow and Rebekah Home. According to the Department of Health, a resident choked to death because the facility lacked adequate staffing. An inspection report from that year concluded that more than half of the staff at United Odd Fellow and Rebekah Home did not know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Split Rock Rehab and Health Care. During 2006, this Bronx nursing home allowed a resident to die from lack of oxygen.

All nursing homes that receive more than $10,000 are required by federal law to report any suspicion of crimes against their elderly residents. While there have been reporting problems, the Department of Health and Human Services has vowed to increase enforcement of these federal regulations.

The mandatory reporting requirement, originally a part of the Affordable Care Act, more colloquially known as Obamacare, has two main provisions – both of which carry heftier fines as of November 28, 2017. A violation of these laws can result in a fine of up to $221,000. If the failure to report the suspected crime results in more harm to the resident, the fine increases to $331,000. The assisted living facility will also be fined for retaliating against any employee or resident that reports a suspected crime. The maximum fine allowable for a retaliatory measure is $221,000. Continue reading

A scathing report by the Office of Inspector General shows that 25 percent of nursing home abuse cases go unreported. Of these unreported cases, 80 percent involved an allegation of sexual abuse or rape of an elderly person. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has promised to do more to identify abuse and neglect, and step up its enforcement whenever it occurs.

missing-patient-300x196According to CBS, this horrific problem has two main causes. First, CMS lacks the procedures and protocols necessary to ensure nursing homes are reporting abuse. Second, in the rare case that a nursing home does run afoul of the law – the fines are so insignificantly small that its cheaper for businesses to just pay the fine, rather than increase staff or the quality of their retirement home. Continue reading

A recent federal and state report excoriated New York’s handling of complaints against nursing homes and nurses in the state.

An audit by the New York found that the state had failed to properly investigate complaints against nurses. For the cases that are deemed “priority 1” – the most serious which usually involve allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse – New York took an average of 228 days to investigate. State law re

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quires these investigations to conclude within 10 days of the complaint. In one horrific case, New York failed to sanction, or otherwise discipline a nurse in any way, after she administered an overdose of insulin that nearly killed a patient. In another case, it took New York almost a year-and-a-half to revoke the nursing license from a Bronx nurse who sexually assaulted a patient.

New York performs even worse when factoring in lower-priority complaints against medical care professionals. With over 8,000 complaints lodged between April 2014 and April 2017, more than 2,000 were not performed within the required 180-day time period.

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