California Nursing Home Lawsuit Settled for Millions
September 10th, 2010
Patients and their families won a class action lawsuit against Skilled Healthcare Group Inc., which operates 22 assisted living facilities in California. Although the jury originally awarded $670 million, the case was settled for $50 million. Yes, it’s much less, but it also means that the patients will actually get compensation now, while they are still alive.
Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. was found liable for understaffing at its nursing homes–patients didn’t receive the minimum amount of nursing care required under California state law. Although the group did not admit doing anything wrong, it agreed to the settlement dollars.
The lawyers of HensonFuerst are heartened by the original verdict. Nursing home residents are routinely neglected and often abused, and we are happy to see that the good guys sometimes win. The only sour notes in this story are that the settlement ended up being only about 7% of the original verdict…and that Skilled Healthcare didn’t have to admit that it had done anything wrong.
We hope that this verdict serves as a caution to other nursing home operators—follow regulations, take care of residents, and put their health above the quest for money. Everyday, HensonFuerst Attorneys fight for the rights of abused and neglected elderly nursing home residents. We will continue to speak for them and, when necessary, to see that justice prevails.
To read more about this story, see the full article here: Los Angeles Times nursing home verdict story
Is Your Nurse Competent?
June 15th, 2010
The North Carolina Board of Nursing has issued a new statements designed to clarify the scope of practice for nurses.
These position paper provide guidelines about what the standards for competent care are for LPNs and RNs. Topics include what to do when assessing a patient, planning for a client’s needs, implementing the plan, evaluating outcomes, recording data, collaborating with others, and counseling the client and/or the client’s family.
Click the links to read the papers:
Position statement for RN practice.
Position statement for LPN practice.
While these papers are intended for nurses, everyone with a loved one being cared for by nurses should review them to make sure that competent care is being delivered. If you wonder how your nurse is following through on the guidelines, ask. Good care starts with good communication.
On the other hand, if it becomes clear that your nurse is not competent, or if you suspect that your loved one is being abused, talk with someone further up the chain of command–the head nurse or facility coordinator. If you believe that your loved one is in immediate danger, it is better to be safe than sorry: call 911.
And finally, if your loved one has been injured by abuse by a long-term care facility and you want to explore your legal options, call the HensonFuerst Nursing Home Abuse team–we’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach us at 1-800-4LAW-MED. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
June 15th, 2010
Today, June 15, is the 5th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Sponsored by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), the first Awareness Day in 2006 involved several hundred organizations and governmental bodies throughout the world, on all seven continents. Their core message is this: Never ignore elder abuse.
Throughout the world, abuse and neglect of older persons is largely under-recognized. It is an unspoken problem. Unfortunately, no community or country in the world is immune from this costly public health and human rights crisis.
Elder Abuse Facts
According to the World Health Organization, the elderly are especially at risk of abuse in institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, and other long- term care facilities. In a survey in the United States, for example, 36% of nursing home staff reported having witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse of an elderly patient in the previous year, 10% admitted having committed at least one act of physical abuse themselves, and 40% said that they had psychologically abused patients.
Abusive acts include physically restraining patients, depriving them of dignity and choice over daily affairs, and providing insufficient care (for example, allowing them to develop pressure sores).
Signs and symptoms of abuse include:
- delays between injuries or illness and seeking medical attention;
- implausible or vague explanations for injuries or ill-health, from either patient or caregiver;
- differing injury accounts or case histories from patient and caregiver;
- frequent visits to emergency departments because a chronic condition has worsened, despite a care plan;
- laboratory findings that are inconsistent with reported treatment.
The HensonFuerst nursing home abuse team has seen first-hand the abuses that can be heaped on the elderly. Just a few months ago, six residents of the Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home were given overdoses of morphine, and one resident died. They were all in the Alzheimer’s unit, which means that they were helpless to know what was going on… helpless to fight back.
Stories like that are what keep HensonFuerst fighting against elder abuse every day of the year.
HensonFuerst Attorneys Researching Britthaven Nursing Home Abuse
June 9th, 2010
Attorney Carma Henson, partner with North Carolina-based HensonFuerst law firm, told reporters today that the HensonFuerst nursing home abuse team is conducting its own investigation into the the morphine overdose of nine Alzheimer’s patients being treated at Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home.
In February, six patients were admitted to the hospital after they tested positive for morphine, even though the pain killer hadn’t been prescribed. One of the patients, 84-year-old Rachel Holliday, died. At the time of her death, she also had high levels of morphine in her blood. On Monday, registered nurse Angela Almore was arrested and indicted on one count of second-degree murder and six counts of felony patient abuse. In a report from WRAL, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said that the state believes Almore acted alone, and that he doesn’t expect any more arrests or charges in the case.
In a news report on WRAL-TV today, Carma Henson said that HensonFuerst is continuing its investigation on behalf of families concerned about how this type of abuse could have happened to their loved ones. The firm is not limiting its research to Almore’s actions; there is also the question of how drugs are administered throughout the facility. According to Carma Henson, a nurse is not supposed to be able to get access to morphine and administer it to patients if it has not been prescribed for those patients.
“This can’t be just a rogue nurse gone bad,” says Ms. Henson. Her hope is that the HensonFuerst investigation gets a look at the bigger picture of how this and other nursing homes are run, so changes can be made to bring about some good. There are still a lot of people in nursing homes who need help… HensonFuerst is determined to make a difference.
(Watch the WRAL video and read their complete story here: HensonFuerst continues investigation.)
Horrific Treatment in a New York City Nursing Home
May 28th, 2010
The nursing home worker didn’t know the camera was rolling as she jerked the wheelchair out from under her elderly patient, causing the woman to break her hip in the fall.
According to a special report by CBS 2HD, the incident happened at the William Benenson Rehabilitation Pavilion in Queens, New York. The accused nurse, Jessie Joiner, appeared in court this week to defend herself against what appear to be black-and-white allegations–not only does the video evidence clearly show the patient being dumped on the ground, nurse Joiner ignores the woman, who was writhing in pain, for three minutes until another employee arrives on the scene.
To learn more about this frightening story of alleged abuse, check out the WCBStv site: NYC Nursing Home Horror story. You can even watch the video there (top right part of the screen, to the right of the story column).
This story and video makes us feel a bit sick. HensonFuerst nursing home abuse lawyers take pride in helping to protect vulnerable elderly people. We have fought to make nursing home facilities take responsibility for abuses by their staff, and we take every report of abuse or neglect seriously. We hope that justice prevails in this NYC case, and that other workers realize that bad deeds will eventually get brought to court… and that they never know when a camera is watching!
Prison for Former Nursing Home CEO
May 25th, 2010
Every now and then, a story comes our way that makes us wish we could give out awards. Today, in the category of “It’s a Step in the Right Direction,” the winner is: Milwaukee, Minnesota for giving jail time to Karen Mason. This criminal was CEO, administrator, and part owner of Havenwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Milwaukee, which closed in 2005 after a raid by state and federal regulators. According to Milwaukee Magazine’s NewsBuzz, the regulators discovered that nursing home residents were denied baths and clean sheets, and one resident jumped to his death after staff failed to report his threats of suicide.
Mason pleaded guilty to felony charges of abuse and theft (she was accused of taking more than $1 million that was supposed to be used for patient care), and was sentenced to 15 months in jail. This week, she was sentenced to two years in federal prison for tax evasion.
As a firm that fights daily to see that nursing home residents are treated with care and respect, HensonFuerst is relieved to see justice served. We are certain that this former CEO is not the only nursing home owner to take these types of harmful liberties, and we look forward to the day when the elderly are no longer seen as easy targets for abuse. To read more about nursing home abuse, visit our Nursing Home Abuse web page.
Britthaven of Chapel Hill Death Update: Excessive Morphine
May 7th, 2010
An article on the WRAL webite today reports that an excessive amount of morphine contributed to the death of a patient in the Alzheimer’s unit of Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home.
In February, patients were drug tested when managers expressed concern about the way the patients were acting. Of 25 Alzheimer’s patients, nine tested positive for opiates. (Morphine is a type of opiate.) Three of the patients were removed from the nursing home and hospitalized, and one of those patients–Rachel Holliday–died on February 16, 2010. On autopsy, the medical examiner found extremely high doses of morphine in Ms. Holliday’s system, even though she was not scheduled to receive that medication at all.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is still analyzing evidence in the case; the medical examiner did not rule out homicide.
Everyone at HensonFuerst is outraged and heartsick at these findings, and our prayers go out to the family members affected. Britthaven of Chapel Hill has been providing substandard care for a long while, as evidenced by its Medicare rating: an overall 1 out of 5 stars. It is also a “Special Focus Facility,” which means that they have a history of persistent poor quality of care. Every patient deserves the best possible care, and Britthaven of Chapel Hill has not been keeping up with the implicit promise made by every special care facility: That they will take care of your loved one.
Obviously, there has been a serious disconnect somewhere along the way. Is the staff undertrained or incompetent? Do the corporate heads not care enough improve the facility?
HensonFuerst is also investigating cases involving Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home patients receiving opiates. If you are concerned about a loved one who resides in this or any other facility, please give us a call. We want to help.
You can reach our nursing home abuse team by calling 1-800-4-LAW-MED.
Connecticut Nursing Home Hits Rock Bottom
May 6th, 2010
New Haven, Connecticut–home to Ivy League Yale University–is also the location of the latest example of how disgusting and neglectful a nursing home can get. According to a story by a Connecticut NBC affiliate, the Department of Public Health held a surprise inspection of The West Rock Health Care Center. Everyone was surprised when inspectors found:
“Linens that were worn thin and brown; boxes of medical records soaked in pooling water; and a nurse who cleaned an open ulcer with the same ‘fecal smeared washcloth’ used to clean the patient.”
In addition, residents were not given medications on time, and slept on beds that were “unmade and with an accumulation of soiled sheets.” In all, there were 37 pages worth of violations.
The nursing home was shut down.
Reaction of the owner, Anthony Pinto? “This is a travesty,” he said, referring to the closing. He believed everything “was correctable.”
Except you can never correct for the pain and indignity already suffered by the residents, or the extra infections that might have already occurred due to such unclean conditions. HensonFuerst believes that our senior citizens deserve the highest of care, not the lowest. We fight everyday to keep nursing home residents from becoming victims of this type of abuse and neglect.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, visit often… talk with staff about concerns you might have… and make facilities take responsibility for proper treatment of your relative. If you believe abuse has already taken place and have questions about what additional action you can take, call us. At HensonFuerst, if you have questions, we have answers. (HensonFuerst: www.lawmed.com; 1-800-4-LAW-MED)
What Nursing Home Administrators Won’t Tell You
April 28th, 2010
The SmartMoney Magazine website published an eye-opening list of “10 Things Nursing Homes Won’t Tell You,” which was adapted from a book by Jonathan Dahl and the editors of SmartMoney. Everyone related to a nursing home resident should visit the site, read the list, print it, study it, and post it somewhere visible.
So I don’t give everything away, I’ll include 5 items here (with our own commentary).
- “We’re careless about the drugs we give out.” Some nursing homes have been cited for unnecessary drug use, use of antipsychotic medications among residents who are not psychotic, and overdosing residents so that they are easier to care for. We have seen this locally, when Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home was reported to be the subject of investigation when residents were given narcotic medications without a prescription, leading to the death of one patient.
- “If it’s not in the care plan, we’re not gonna do it.” The federal government requires a care plan for each resident, which outlines how the resident should be cared for. Even if something is on the care plan, nursing homes can neglect the promised duties… but if a particular aspect of care is not on the plan, forget about it. Don’t assume anything.
- “‘Neglect’ is our middle name.” When nursing home residents are neglected, they can suffer from dehydration, pressure sores, malnutrition, disease, and sometimes death.
- “We use physical restraints on your loved ones.” Restraints are allowed as a method of last resort to keep a loved one safe or protect others. But that doesn’t mean that use of restraints isn’t abused, and can lead to depression, agitation, bruising, and other physical problems.
- “Fines? Go ahead–give us your best shot.” When a nursing home doesn’t meet standards, it can be fined… but that doesn’t mean that the money will ever be collected. The facility can appeal the the citation and fine, or find other ways to avoid paying. Plus, corporations that own and operate nursing homes at the highest levels (because there are often shell companies that are the “face” of each facility) are usually so flush with cash that a little fine is barely noticed.
Want to read the rest of the list? Check out the original article here: SmartMoney Magazine.
HensonFuerst is an avid supporter of nursing home residents and their families. Our lawyers have been involved in some groundbreaking litigation that have made residents safer, and we continue to work for the benefit of the “little guy” against corporations who abuse and neglect senior citizens. If you think your loved one is being abused in a nursing home and you don’t know what to do, contact HensonFuerst. If you have questions, we have answers.
Nursing Facilities Face Investigation
March 9th, 2010
In response to continuing reports of deaths, abuse, and substandard care at long-term nursing facilities, the Senate Finance Committee has opened an investigation. The company in the spotlight is Select Medical Corporation, a for-profit long-term care provider with 89 facilities in 26 states, including North Carolina. (They own Select Specialty Hospitals in Durham and Winston-Salem.)
The investigation will focus on the deaths and poor treatment of seriously ill patients. According to a an article in the New York Times, these hospitals treat 200,000 patients each year, but rarely have full-time physicians on staff. In one particularly disturbing example, a dying patient’s heart alarm sounded for 77 minutes before nurses responded.
I think we can all recognize that this is horrendous care, but some people may wonder why the government would bother to get involved…and why the Senate Finance Committee. The answer comes down to funding.
The [Senate Finance] committee has substantial power over long-term care hospitals because it oversees Medicare. The federal program spends almost $5 billion annually on the hospitals, providing about 60 percent of their total revenue. (quoted from the New York Times article by Alex Berenson.)
While it is always heartening to see investigations into specific companies that are doing wrong, it looks like this particular issue may have widespread benefits for all of us:
In a separate letter, the senators asked that the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative agency, examine federal and state oversight of all long-term care hospitals, saying that they worried the facilities might expose patients “to an unreasonable risk of harm.”
Finally…hope for reform, from Medicare on down!