A recent report in the New York Times describes how corporate nursing homes are underfunded, understaffed, and providing sub-standard or extremely poor care for their residents. The article reports that nursing homes such as Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Memphis, Tennessee are examples of corporate nursing homes that reported large deficits and there are claims of understaffing, yet the numbers are not adding up.
According to the article, a lawsuit that is being brought on by a former resident’s family claims that:
Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, appeared to have been severely underfunded at the time, with a $2 million deficit on its books and a scarcity of nurses and aides. “Sometimes we’d be short of diapers, sheets, linens,” one nurse testified.
That same year, $2.8 million of the facility’s $12 million in operating expenses went to a constellation of corporations controlled by two Long Island accountants who, court records show, owned Allenbrooke and 32 other nursing homes. The homes paid the men’s other companies to provide physical therapy, management, drugs and other services, from which the owners reaped profits.
“It looked like a piece of black charcoal”
The same lawsuit claims that the resident, Martha Jane Pierce, was the victim of severe medical neglect. Her son came to visit her and noticed that something was amiss. The article reports that he:
peeled back the white sock that had been covering his 82-year-old mother’s right foot for a month, he discovered rotting flesh.
“It looked like a piece of black charcoal” and smelled “like death,” her daughter Cindy Hatfield later testified. After Mrs. Pierce, a patient at a nursing home in Memphis, was transferred to a hospital, a surgeon had to amputate much of her leg.
A nurse at the facility verified the conditions and attributed them to lack of staff and lack of funds to provide proper care for residents. The report depicts a rising trend in nursing home corporations. In order to reap the most profit, corporations that own nursing homes are outsourcing services to companies in which they have a financial interest in. The report states that:
Owners can arrange highly favorable contracts in which their nursing homes pay more than they might in a competitive market. Owners then siphon off higher profits, which are not recorded on the nursing home’s accounts.
Such corporate webs bring owners a legal benefit, too: When a nursing home is sued, injured residents and their families have a much harder time collecting money from the related companies — the ones with the full coffers. Courts set a high bar for plaintiffs to bring these ancillary companies into their cases.
I have found in my experience that nursing homes that are for-profit companies (instead of nonprofit or religious), profit is king. And how do nursing homes (or any company) make profit? By having more income (revenue) with less cost (expenses).
The number one income source for every nursing home I have ever sued has been the number of residents (and, often, they get paid more for resident who have the highest care needs, reflected by the Resource Utilization Group score). Want revenues to go up? Fill those nursing home beds with residents, the sicker and needier, the better.
The number one expense for every nursing home I’ve ever sued has been nursing staff. Want expenses to go down? Hire fewer nursing staff members, pay them less, and have them work fewer hours.
The result is an almost undeniable temptation to under staff: have as many residents cared for by as few nurses and aides as you can get away with.
Resident Found Dirty, Unfed, and in Urine
According to Martha Jean Pierce’s family the nursing home’s low staff levels left their mother in a predicament. Initially she came to Allenbrooke because she suffered from dementia and required more care. Unfortunately, her family often found her dirty, unfed, and soaked in urine. Her family made the following statement:
“If you went in on the weekend, you’d be lucky to find one nurse there,” he said in an interview.
After a stroke, Mrs. Pierce became partly paralyzed and nonverbal, but the nursing home did not increase the attention she received, said Carey Acerra, one of Mrs. Pierce’s lawyers. When Mrs. Pierce’s children visited, they rarely saw aides reposition her in bed every two hours, the standard practice to prevent bedsores.
When questioned, a nurse claimed that without enough staff, caring for patients such as Mrs. Pierce is impossible. Nursing homes provide care to residents through people (staff): nurses (registered nurses and licensed practical nurses), nursing aides (also called State Tested Nursing Assistants or STNAs in Ohio), therapists (physical, occupational, speech) and their assistants, janitorial / environmental staff, dietary / nutrition, and sometimes doctors.
In my experience, critical understaffing is in the nursing staff–nurses (RNs and / or LPNs) and aides (STNAs)–because they are the ones providing direct medical care, observation, and evaluation. Without enough nursing staff, people die.
If you have discovered that your loved one is not receiving the proper and necessary care at their nursing home, comment bellow or contact me here. I will launch an investigation into whether or not understaffing has played a role in your loved one’s horribly unfortunate injury or death. It is imperative that we hold nursing homes accountable for understaffing nursing homes t turn a profit. It is dangerous and horribly wrong!
You can read the full article here.