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Nursing Home Neglect Results in $1,500 Fine

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A woman suffering from schizophrenia and other serious medical problems fell nine times in seven months before anyone at her nursing home acted to prevent further falls, according to an article published in The Arizona Daily Star posted on the Fox News Web site. That nursing home was fined $1,500 by the local health care agency that provides permits for nursing homes.

The woman’s chart also describes six weeks last fall when she was behaving wildly — yelling, pacing, threatening staff and taking off her clothes, among other things. But none of her caregivers connected that to the fact that they failed during those same weeks to give her, her medication 22 times. For failing to provide that necessary care, Santa Rosa Care Center paid a $1,500 fine, a minuscule amount in my opinion, considering the pain they’ve caused the victim and their family.

The woman was not identified in the health department’s report, released to the newspaper last week. In the health department’s online listing of nursing homes, Santa Rosa has a current quality rating of “B,” which means the center is 80 percent to 90 percent compliant with the department’s minimum quality standards. But the center’s violations illustrate the need for improvement at all levels of the elder-care system, said Stewart Grabel, ombudsman and director of elder rights and benefits at Pima Council on Aging.

Grabel questioned whether the home had a care plan for the woman, who clearly had multiple problems. He also asks another important question: Did the facility have adequate staff to carry out the plan? “We need to strengthen government’s role in monitoring those facilities and to adequately fund facilities so they can have well-trained staff.”

I would say that the nursing home’s penalty was shamefully low considering what happened to this patient. If they knew that this patient was mentally ill and was prone to falling down they should have had a fall-prevention program in place for her. If there was a problem getting such a plan in place because they were understaffed or the staff lacked training, they should’ve taken care of that too. One day of understaffing the facility could have saved Santa Rose Care Center $1,000 or more a day. They should have been fined at least that amount for every day of their violation. Only when the profit incentive to understaffing is removed will some of these facilities maintain adequate staffing.

Assisted care facilities and nursing homes are of the utmost interest to me today, as I have begun to investigate them, not for a client who’s basic care has been neglected but at the request of my own mother who wishes to move from living on her own to a low level assisted care facility which has higher levels of services available when she may need them. With my experience with negligent facilities, this is going to be a trust issue for both my mom and I. As we venture through this journey, we will share our findings and experiences here on my blog.

If you have a complaint against a nursing home, visit the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform’s Web site. If you want to find out about your legal options, call me, John Bisnar, 800-259-6373.

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