Thursday, July 15, 2010

Nursing Home Abuse Investigations Delayed

It's been 11 months since Johnson Mathers Nursing Home in Carlisle received the state's most serious regulatory citation in the May 2009 death of James "Ronnie" Duncan.

The Type A citation also was sent from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the agency that issues the citations, to the office of Attorney General Jack Conway, which reviews them for criminal wrongdoing.

Since then, no decision has been made to close the case or pursue criminal charges in the death of the mentally handicapped man who died from profuse bleeding in the brain after a fall. Staff members put Duncan back to bed and left him without treatment for three hours, according to state and court documents.

The Duncan case is one of eight nursing home cases that have languished for months and sometimes years as investigators try to determine whether to pursue charges.

Of the 107 serious citations issued by the cabinet's Office of Inspector General from December 2006 through 2009, eight cases are open and under review by the attorney general's Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control or local prosecutors, according to a Herald-Leader review.

Those eight cases have been pending for an average of 19 months.

Shelley Johnson, spokeswoman for Conway, said there is no specific time frame in which cases are resolved because of individual factors in each investigation. (Conway has been in office since January 2008.)

Police or coroners are not normally called to nursing home deaths in Kentucky, so there is no collection of physical evidence.

In addition, investigators' high case loads, staffing shortages and coordination with other law enforcement agencies have slowed some investigations, said Johnson. Other factors include high turnover of nursing home staff and difficulty finding witnesses.

At least two cases have been open for nearly three years and involve the same nursing home.

A June 2007 citation against Villaspring of Erlanger in Kenton County says that a resident developed sepsis when the facility didn't monitor pressure ulcers. In December 2007, nursing home officials were cited for failing to monitor a resident's dose of Coumadin, a drug that prevents blood clots.

"In the case of Villaspring, this office has conducted an extensive investigation involving the allegations of abuse and neglect," Johnson said. "Our investigators have also looked into other allegations of neglect at Villaspring that were not the subject of any Type A citation."

Because Villaspring is an ongoing investigation, state officials would not comment on specific details.

Kim Majick, a spokeswoman for Villaspring, said: "The attorney general's office fully investigated these cases, and Villaspring provided multiple charts, interviews, correspondence over that 21/2-year period, and we believe the cases after thorough vetting by the AG's offices are complete."

Type A citations from the state don't include the residents' names.

Other cases that are still open include those involving:

■ Woodcrest Manor Care Center. It's been 11 months since a serious citation was issued at the Elsmere facility, according to records from the attorney general's office.

After a resident experienced five falls in less than a month, Woodcrest Manor officials placed the resident's bed against the wall and put a floor sensor in the room so staff could hear if the resident fell. After that, the resident began scooting down and going over the end of the bed so the floor sensor would not sound.

Even though the nursing staff knew that, there was no evidence that the facility addressed it. On July 9, 2009, the resident was found three feet from the bed with a fractured spine and a hematoma to the head. He was taken to a hospital, where he died six days later. According to the attorney general's office, the case is still under review.

Woodcrest Manor administrator Bob Day declined to comment.

■ Prestonsburg Health Care Center. A citation was issued in June 2009 based on a case involving a resident who for two days was pale, sweating, clutching his legs in pain and yelling "Oh God." No one called a physician, the citation said.

Read more:

Abuse investigations tend to languish - Voiceless & Vulnerable: Nursing Home Abuse - "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

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