Injuries, deaths cited in nursing home settlement

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
Published: 3/13/2019 9:49:51 PM

Betsy Crane had already fallen 19 times while in the care of the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Westborough.

Her next fall proved fatal.

“Our mother, Betty Ford Crane, affectionately called Betsy, would not want anyone to die in the manner that she did,” said her daughter Candi Hitchcock.

Hitchcock, who called her mother her “best friend,” found Betsy Crane the night of her 20th fall suffering from a untreated head wound. The 89-year-old had also suffered internal injuries that would lead to her death.

“Our family had to watch her bleed out for 10 days from July 29 to Aug. 7, 2015,” Hitchcock said. “She died an unnecessarily painful death.”

Members of Crane’s family joined Attorney General Maura Healey and senior care advocates on Wednesday to announce settlements with Beaumont and six nursing care facilities after a statewide investigation discovered failings that led to injuries, and patient deaths.

In one facility, a patient died after being caught in “outdated and faulty” bed rails, Healey said. Another patient died after staff failed to administer medication that could have prevented a fatal blood clot.

“My hope today is that entities operating in the state will live up to expectations of quality of care and quality of life and if they don’t they’ll have to answer to our office,” Healey said.

There are more than 400 nursing homes in Massachusetts operating 45,000 beds, but officials said the industry is facing severe financial and demographic challenges that has led to “cutting corners” and shortages in staffing or substandard training that is affecting the level of care seniors receive.

The nursing homes caught up in what Healey called a “major and significant statewide investigation” will pay between $450,000 and $550,000 in fines that will be split between the state’s General Fund and a fund operated by the Department of Public Health to monitor and improve nursing home care.

Settlements were reached with Oxford Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Haverhill, Jewish Nursing Home of Longmeadow, Woodbriar Health Center in Wilmington, Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Westborough, Braemoor Health Center in Brockton, Wakefield Center in Wakefield and The Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at Everett.

Synergy Health Care, which operates the Brockton and Wilmington facilities, will be forced to pay between $100,000 and $200,000 in fines and the company’s two owners Avi Lipschutz and Dov Newmark will barred for seven years from participating in federal or state health care programs in Massachusetts.

The settlement with Synergy resolves allegations that a resident of Woodbriar Health Center, Mary Meuse, fell from a mechanical lift in 2015 while being transferred by only one nurse aide, suffering serious injuries that were not properly communicated to staff, her family or her physician.

On blood thinners for a heart condition, she died two days later from internal injuries.

In a separate case at a Synergy facility, nursing home staff at Braemoor are alleged to have failed to attempt to resuscitate a resident when he became non-responsive during feeding, and did not report the death to the Department of Public Health in a timely fashion.

Healey said that Braemoor has since closed, and Woodbriar is in the process of being sold.

“The human toll that Synergy and other facilities imposed on their residents is unconscionable, as well as one their employees, and we are thankful for this resolution,” said Wynn Gerhard, senior attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services.

Other parts of the settlement include a $180,000 fine for Oxford for failing to adequately train staff on how to treat patients with substance abuse disorder, a $40,000 fine for Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Everett involving the inability to contain and protect a patient with a history of escaping, and a $30,000 fine for the Wakefield Center linked to a medication transcription error that led to the death of a patient who did not receive blood clot medication.

Many of the facilities are also facing various training, audit and monitoring requirements. Many of the incidents, officials said, have to do with shortages and a lack of training for nursing home staff.

“The state funding shortfall for nursing homes and its impact on quality staffing recruitment and retention is very real,” said Ernie Corrigan, of Mass Senior Care. “This crisis requires the immediate attention of leaders from across the Commonwealth to come together to ensure that the individuals who live at Massachusetts nursing facilities always receive high quality care.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders earlier this week told lawmakers that many nursing home were at deep risk of closure due to the financial strains being put on facilities by payment rates and a shift toward assisted living and in-home care with home health aides.




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