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Pittsburgh Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

In the entire state of Pennsylvania, about 81,000 elderly residents live in over 700 nursing homes. In previous years, the majority of Pennsylvania nursing care facilities have earned at least three stars or higher, with over 170 of the state’s homes being awarded five stars from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Changes to the scoring system and the way that health care is measured raised more than a few concerns in the past two years, and in 2015, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office took a closer look at many of the nursing care facilities in the state.

Increased Fines and New Reporting Methods

In the first half of 2015, fines faced by nursing facilities for unmet health and safety standards more than tripled, making them the highest fines ever levied against Pennsylvania nursing homes since 2009. This is largely due to a 36-facility lawsuit brought against Golden Living Centers, as well as evidence that almost none of the cases of alleged sexual and physical abuse ever resulted in criminal charges.

In addition to enforcing more fines for Pittsburgh nursing homes not providing adequate healthcare and safety routines, the Attorney General’s office also took steps to make it easier for Pittsburgh citizens to report suspicions of elder abuse. Pennsylvania is one state of a few that require facility employees or management staff to report to authorities immediately if abuse or neglect is suspected. But the fear of retribution or being charged with crimes themselves held many people back from reporting.

The Attorney General set up an anonymous reporting system that is manned 24 hours a day by Department of Aging counselors. Anyone who calls in can choose to remain anonymous, and is granted freedom from any criminal liability regarding the case of suspected elder abuse.

Veteran Home Cited

In early 2016, a Pittsburgh nursing home for veterans was cited by the state for two known cases of elder abuse involving the criminal act of confinement.

In one case, a patient remained in leg restraints for over five months without the mandatory 30-day assessments that could have shown he was ready to be released from restraints. Pennsylvania state law declares that any resident in a nursing home facility has the right to refuse restraints if they are not for an immediate medical need.

Another case from a year earlier showed that in the same Pittsburgh facility, a resident was kept in a seatbelt restraint in a wheelchair for over a year, and had only a single required monthly assessment during that time. There are only six state-run facilities for veteran care in the sate, and other findings have showed a failure to keep proper medical records of patients in these facilities.

An inspection by the Medicare and Medicaid program employees also revealed that carts of medicine were routinely left unlocked and unsupervised in areas where residents could access them.

Due to all of these health and safety concerns, the Pittsburgh facility was cited for elder abuse, and is being fined.

Ombudsman Program

For any senior citizen who believes they may be a victim of abuse in a Pittsburgh nursing facility, the Ombudsman Program is a good place to start to receive assistance and representation. This program connects seniors to resources to help them manage finances and insurance benefits, understand medications and communicate better with doctors and other healthcare providers, information on maintaining dignity and rights during long-term medical care, and help choosing the right type of care.

This program isn’t the one to contact if there is immediate danger to an elder facing abuse; but if the abuse is only suspected, or if the elder needs a representative to help with decisions because family isn’t available to help, this program can offer a counselor for elderly citizens.

 

Sources:

 

http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/10108700-74/restraints-state-veterans

 

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/aging-edge-reports/2016/01/24/Fines-to-Pennsylvania-nursing-homes-increasing-Department-of-Health-quality-care/stories/201601240015

 

http://www.aging.pa.gov/organization/advocacy-and-protection/Pages/Mandatory-Abuse-Reporting.aspx#.VvtJKxIrK34

 

 

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