The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the decommissioning of a Georgia long-term care center following an investigation that found the nursing home was infested with fire ants. The facility, Eagles’ Nest Community Living Center, will be permanently closed following a determination that it can’t provide an adequate setting for long-term care.
According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the VA intends to rebuild the nursing home, and to add more long-term care beds at a different facility west of Atlanta, the Veterans Village. As for the 34 residents living at Eagles’ Nest, they were transferred to other facilities back in April “to limit their exposure to COVID-19,” according to the AJC.
In May, the AJC reported on an ant infestation that resulted in at least one resident, Joel Marrable, “found covered in bites” before he died. According to that report, which cited an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which concluded that its failure to address the infestation resulted in “multiple veterans… bitten over three months and moved from room to room.” In September 2019, Marrable’s daughter found him “in distress with ant bites,” before he died the next day.
A summary of the VA’s investigation into Eagles’ Nest attributed the infestation to leadership failures, communication failures, “inappropriate staffing,” failures to properly clean the facility, failures of supervision, as well as “a work culture that lacked a sense of urgency and failed to communicate with veterans’ families,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In a statement, the VA said, “The incident that occurred with our veteran, Mr. Marrable, in our Community Living Center, was unacceptable, and since September 2019, we have taken drastic steps to ensure it never happens again. … We concur with all the team’s recommendations in the recently released Administrative Investigation Board findings report. The appropriate disciplinary action was taken against all staff involved.”
The Marrable family’s lawyer said in a statement to the Journal-Constitution, “It is confounding that something like an infestation of fire ants can go on unchecked.” Marrable was reportedly observed by facility staffers to be “covered with ants” on September 2, 2019, and ants were discovered in his room on September 5, though his family was not informed. Marrable’s daughter visited her father and observed his ant bites on September 6, though the results of his autopsy are reportedly blacked out in the VA report. His family’s attorney stated that “experts he consulted with believe the bites hastened [Marrable’s] death.”
The nursing home initially responded to the VA’s findings by establishing a permanent housekeeping staff, retraining employees and implementing new reporting protocols. Staff involved in the underlying incidents were disciplined, and a “regional administrator was put on leave and retired shortly afterward.” Additionally, according to the Journal-Constitution, “The region’s chief medical officer and seven other staff members were reassigned.”
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.