May 15, 2011

Nursing Home Residents At Risk From Improper Drug Prescriptions

Elderly nursing home patients have been routinely receiving costly antipsychotic drugs which increase their risk of death and are not approved for their treatment.

According to a report from the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general, 88 percent of the antipsychotic drugs administered in nursing homes were prescribed for uses that the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved.

Nearly one in seven elderly nursing home residents, nearly all of them with dementia, are given powerful atypical antipsychotic drugs even though the medicines increase the risks of death and are not approved for such treatments, the government audit found.

More than half of the antipsychotics paid for by the federal Medicare program in the first half of 2007 were “erroneous,” the study found, costing the program $116 million for those six months.

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) want Medicare to explain why it wrongly paid millions of dollars in claims for drugs that were given to seniors for these unapproved uses.

Medicare provides coverage for some unapproved uses, but the senators suggested that the report’s findings might indicate a flawed decision-making system.

The Medicare agency said in its response to the inspector general’s report that it should have denied more than half the claims it paid for the use of antipsychotics in nursing homes.

The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services went so far as to state that “government, taxpayers, nursing home residents as well as their families and caregivers should be outraged and seek solutions.”

According to the audit, some of the drugs such as Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon are potentially lethal to many of the patients getting them and that some drug manufacturers illegally marketed their medicines for these uses.

In response to the audit, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that some of the inappropriate use of antipsychotics in elderly nursing home patients is a result of drug makers’ paying kickbacks to nursing homes to increase prescriptions for the medicines.

Omnicare Inc., a pharmacy chain for nursing homes, paid $98 million in November 2009 to settle accusations that it received kickbacks from Johnson & Johnson and other drug makers for antipsychotic prescriptions.

The government auditors found that of the 2.1 million elderly patients in nursing homes during the first six months of 2007, 304,983 had at least one Medicare claim for an antipsychotic medicine. Nursing home residents received 20 percent of the 8.5 million claims for antipsychotic medicines for all Medicare beneficiaries at a cost of $309 million during those six months.

Federal rules require that any drugs that are paid for by the government be given only for uses that are approved either by the government or one of three independent drug usage encyclopedias. Auditors found that 51 percent, or 726,000 of 1.4 million claims, for antipsychotic medicines did not meet this criterion and were thus paid for by the government improperly.

May 11, 2011

Financial Incentives To Improve Hospital Care

In a novel, yet sensible approach designed to reduce medical errors, increase the quality of care, and reduce costs, the Obama administration issued a final regulation to reward hospitals that provide high-quality care. This step is the first in a series of planned steps that are designed to fundamentally transform the way that the federal government pays for healthcare.

Under the initiative, one of several authorized in the new healthcare law the president signed last year, Medicare will pay more to institutions that score well on a series of measures that gauge patient care and pay less to those that don't meet quality benchmarks.

Though commonplaces in many industries, setting quality benchmarks and tying them to compensation will be new for many of the nation's hospitals. It is a strategy that Medicare has never used before on a systematic basis.

But many experts and consumer advocates said Friday that they saw these kinds of quality initiatives as crucial not only to improving medical care but also to controlling costs.

Hospitals that fall short of the new benchmarks could lose as much as 1% of what Medicare would pay them in 2013.

That's a relatively smallt penalty for an industry that receives more than $150 billion a year from Medicare, but the stakes could become significant as more quality initiatives are implemented.

Medicare provides insurance to nearly 50 million elderly and disabled Americans, paying for 12.4 million hospitalizations in 2009, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

One recent study published in the journal Health Affairs estimated that 1 in 3 hospital patients experienced an "adverse event" such as being given the wrong medication, acquiring an infection or receiving the wrong surgical procedure.

The Obama administration sees improving quality as the best strategy for saving cash-strapped public healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid rather than requiring beneficiaries to pay more for their care.

In the first year, hospitals will be graded on 12 process measures, which track things like how quickly heart attack victims are given anti-clotting medicines and how quickly surgical patients receive antibiotics after surgery to cut down on infections

In 2014, the Obama administration plans to expand the report card to include outcome measures, including mortality rates for patients after they leave the hospital and the prevalence of hospital-acquired conditions such as infections and bedsores.

Institutions with high rates of hospital-acquired conditions, as well as those with high readmission rates, stand to be penalized a second time because of another quality initiative still under development.

Some hospital officials have criticized the imposition of two penalties for hospital-acquired conditions. The American Hospital Association raised concerns about relying too heavily on surveys of patient opinion, which they said could penalize hospitals that care for sicker patients.

November 29, 2010

Nursing Homes Hide Behind Confusing Ownership

Our Atlanta based attorneys frequently pursue cases against nursing homes involving horrible neglect and abuse of elderly and disabled persons.

In most of these cases our attorneys must sort through a maze of companies and entities designed to hide the true ownership of these offending entities and thereby avoid responsibility.

It is encouraging to see that several national lawmakers in the health policy world now want want nursing homes to be more open about who's running them.

Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) recently issued a joint statement saying that tangled layers of ownership information, complicated by buy-ups from private investment firms, make it almost impossible for consumers or government regulators to determine who's operating many facilities and who should be responsible if problems arise.

"Nursing home residents and their families deserve to know the full story about who is ultimately responsible for their care,” Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, said in a statement. “Federal health care officials need full and detailed information so they can properly oversee these nursing homes and hold the correct parties accountable for keeping patients safe and well-cared for."

The concerns are in response to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that private investment firms have snatched up more than 1,800 nursing homes since 1998, but current reporting requirements make it difficult to track those ownership changes. The GAO found that ten large firms accounted for 89 percent of the purchases.

Under current rules, nursing homes wishing to participate in Medicare and Medicaid must disclose ownership information to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The agency keeps a database that's supposed to track that data. But the GAO found the database was deficient in clarifying the complex ownership structures and chain affiliations.

Senator Grassley said the findings provide "further evidence of what we already knew: That the federal government needs to do a better job giving nursing home residents — including Medicare beneficiaries — complete, accurate and timely information so they can make the right choices when choosing a nursing home."

The new health reform law addresses the ownership issue head on, requiring skilled nursing facilities (under Medicare) and nursing facilities (under Medicaid) — at the request of state and federal regulators — to provide full and clear ownership information.

November 21, 2010

Medical Errors Kill 15,000 Medicare Patients Each Month, According to Inspector General

A disturbing Inspector General report from the shows that medical errors are harming and killing our senior citizens at alarming rates.

An estimated 15,000 Medicare patients die each month, and many more are injured, because of usually preventable medical mistakes in hospitals and other facilities.

The report focused on “adverse events,” defined as "harm to a patient as a result of medical care, such as infection associated with use of a catheter," and “never events,” which are specific "serious events, such as surgery on the wrong patient, that the National Quality Forum (NQF) deemed 'should never occur in a health care setting.'”

The Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services found:

--An estimated 13.5 percent of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries experienced adverse events during their hospital stays.

--An additional 13.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries experienced events during their hospital stays that resulted in temporary harm.

--Physician reviewers determined that 44 percent of adverse and temporary harm events were clearly or likely preventable.

--Hospital care associated with adverse and temporary harm events cost Medicare an estimated $324 million in October 2008.

Significantly, the 2009 loss to taxpayers was "$4.4 billion spent on care associated with events"--which did not even include the cost of followup care.

The cost in lives, health, and taxpayer dollars of preventable medical errors is far too high. Respect for life of our senior citizens requires accountability when harm occurs, and preventive steps to ensure patient safety.

A portion of the Inpsector General's report is reprinted below:

Continue reading "Medical Errors Kill 15,000 Medicare Patients Each Month, According to Inspector General" »

October 28, 2010

Nursing Home and Insurance Company Abuse of Elderly and Disabled

Our Atlanta based attorneys have and are litigating cases against nursing homes involving almost unspeakable abuses of elderly and vulnerable patients. These civil suits help uncover abuses by nursing home and insurance companies, according to a new report by the American Association for Justice.

“Where regulatory and legislative bodies have been unable to cope with this distressing rise of neglect and abuse of our elderly, the civil justice system has stepped into the breach,” said the AAJ President, in a statement accompanying the release of the report, “Standing Up For Seniors: How the Civil Justice System Protects Elderly Americans.”

According to the report, the vast majority of the nursing facilities that house more than 1.5 million elderly Americans are owned by private corporate chains, making it difficult for consumers to hold them accountable for abuse.

The report also asserts that insurance companies are more likely to take advantage of older patients with practices like miscalculating mortality rates, denying claims and cutting off benefits for needed treatments.

The report outlines how, through litigation, trial attorneys across the country have uncovered evidence of corporate programs aimed at terminating seniors’ benefits as well as evidence of nursing home abuse and neglect.

The report warns that efforts to combat nursing home abuses through civil suits are hampered by the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in nursing home and insurance contracts.

Continue reading "Nursing Home and Insurance Company Abuse of Elderly and Disabled" »

August 5, 2010

Jury Awards $114 Million In Nursing Home Abuse Case

Almost every week the Georgia injury lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP hear about horrific treatment of elderly patients in nursing homes or other long-term facilities. Occasionally they are held accountable for their negligent treatment.

Last month, the family of a 76 year old Florida woman was awarded $114 million in a nursing home abuse case. The woman died in 2003 after having been a patient at the nursing home. The lawsuit alleged that the elderly woman was injured after falling, had developed pressure sores, was over medicated, dehydrated and malnourished. The lawsuit alleged that the woman’s treatment at the facility led to her death. The breakdown of the verdict was $14 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

Elderly people are entitled to basic safety, respect and dignity. If you or someone you love is a victim of elder abuse or nursing home abuse, you have the right to hold the abuser responsible in court. The Georgia injury lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP have represented injured Georgians in elder abuse lawsuits and other personal injury suits for over 40 years.. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you'll get the extensive experience and personalized attention you deserve. For a free consultation, call us today at 1-800 228-9159.

December 7, 2009

Dangerous Nurses May Be Practicing In Georgia

Dangerous nurses and healthcare providers may be practicing throughout Georgia. In 1987, Congress ordered federal health officials to create a database of state disciplinary actions against nurses and other health professionals. This database includes the names of those who, among other things, have been found to have committed physical, mental and sexual abuse of patients.

While each state is required to maintain a database, no nationally available database has ben created. When a hospital or temporary agency wants to hire a nurse, there's no easy way to check whether the person has abused a patient or engaged in dangerous conduct elsewhere in the country.

This information was supposed to be added to a database of similar information about doctors which was made available to hospitals and other eligible health employers in 1990. But this has not happened.

As it stands now, only federal and state agencies and health plans, such as HMOs, are allowed access to the information about nurses. Incredibly, hospitals and nursing homes cannot access this critical data.

The federal government has announced that this information should be available on a nationwide basis to hospitals and other health facilities within a year. There is one major obstacle. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities rely on temporary agencies for nursing and other employees. Under the law, temporary agencies would be allowed to search a nurse's background only if they were designated as agents of particular hospitals or other facility. It is anticipated that these institutions will be unwilling to designate multiple staffing firms as their agents.

Unfortunately, while these problems are being debated by government officials, many innocent patients may become victims of dangerous perpetrators whose proclivities are known to the government, but unavailable to the very institutions which hire them and place them in positions of trust. This is an outrageous situation which must be corrected immediately. One can only hope that the government officials charged with this duty will take it seriously and proceed with the greatest of speed.

November 11, 2009

"98,000 Reasons" Why Medical Negligence and Medical Malpractice Remain a Public Health Danger

As Congress debates providing and paying for health care, another huge "cost" must not be forgotten: the cost of medical errors and medical negligence.

According to conservative estimates, 98,000 Americans annually die because of preventable medical negligence. Many more suffer life-changing injuries.

A terrific website, 98,000 Reasons, describes many of these stories of preventable injuries and deaths. Please visit it, as reducing medical errors saves innocent lives, and reduces costs of health care.

October 26, 2009

Aide Pleads Guilty To Neglect In Nursing Home Death

Nursing home neglect and nursing home negligence leading to the wrongful death or serious injury of the elderly is a growing problem. With the number of aging baby boomers steadily increasing, it is likely to continue to be a problem. Neglect takes many forms. Recently, we read that an Illinois woman involved in a lawsuit over the alleged wrongful death of an 89-year old Alzheimer patient has pleaded guilty to criminal neglect, according to the Chicago Tribune. Sara Wentworth died of hypothermia earlier this year after wandering out of the Arbor Of Itasca Nursing Home in freezing temperatures. Heidi Leon, the nursing assistant on duty at the time, failed to respond when Wentworth triggered an alarm, prosecutors said. A wrongful death lawsuit is currently pending against the facility.

For 45 years, the Georgia injury lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP have represented victims of nursing home negligence in personal injury cases and wrongful death actions. If your loved one has been injured as a result of the negligence of a nursing home, call us to discuss your rights at 800 228-9159.

Chicago Tribune

October 2, 2009

Falls In Nursing Homes, Hospitals and Skilled Nursing Facilities

The Georgia injury lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP have represented many clients who have sustained serious injuries as a result of falling in hospitals, nursing homes and extended care facilities. Patients who are long term residents in skilled nursing facilities are by definition in a compromised state of health, usually from multiple chronic medical problems. These patients are often weak, are subject to lightheaded spells, become confused and have significant deficiencies of mobility and balance. Falling, sometimes frequent falling is thus a common occurrence for these patients. The consequence of these events can range from simple, inconsequential bruising to severe complications such as broken bones to intracranial hemorrhages. Furthermore, even relatively simple additional stresses imposed on an already debilitated state can have long term effects on a patient's overall medical condition over and above the specific effects of the fall itself. For example, it is well known that such patients who sustain a fractured hip have much higher 6 month mortality even after the fracture has healed and baseline mobility has been re-established. Although skilled nursing facilities and other medical providers are well aware of the risks to elderly patients who fall, they are often negligent in a variety of ways, including failing to adopt safety measures to protect patients.
If your loved on has been injured as a result of the negligence of a nursing home or other skilled nursing facility, contact the experienced Georgia injury lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP at (800) 228-9159.

April 23, 2009

Caps on Damages For Nursing Home Abuse - What Are They Thinking?

In addition to representing victims of trucking accidents and automobile accidents, the Georgia injury lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP also represent victims of nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect. including patients who have sustained decubitus ulcers (bed sores), falls and brutality in nursing homes. Consequently we have seen, first-hand, how victims of nursing home abuse or neglect suffer when those facilities don’t adequately take care of the people for which they are paid to care. It has been our experience that the owners of nursing homes under-staff these facilities and under pay many of the employees who actually do the hard work of caring for elderly and disabled people.

This week I read about the efforts of a Republican state representative in Tennessee who had the gall to propose to the Tennessee House of Representatives that they pass legislation placing caps on damages in lawsuits against nursing homes. Fortunately for the citizens of Tennessee, the proposal failed in a House subcommittee. What a politician will not do to try to get votes or protect the interest of big business never fails to surprise us. One can hardly imagine what the state of care would be for elderly and disabled people in nursing homes if it we not for the fear of a large damage award to keep them in line. In the last few month, the citizens of this country have all witnessed what happens when unregulated big business runs wild with no regulation or oversight. The old saying, “It’s always all about the money” is a true statement. The only way to hold business accountable for their negligence is for there to be financial consequences for their conduct.

P.S. The proposal was denounced as the “Kill Old People Cheap Act” by a Democrat representative who voted against the bill!

April 17, 2009

Physical & Sexual Abuse At Georgia Day Care Centers

The Georgia injury lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP have represented, and continue to represent, victims of day care child abuse. The statistics on physical child abuse are alarming. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of children are physically abused each year by a parent or close relative; however, abusers include daycare workers, healthcare providers, mental healthcare workers and others who care for children on a daily basis.

We currently represent a young victim who was abused while a patient in the psychiatric ward of a Georgia hospital and a young victim of a sexual assault that occurred while a patient in an Atlanta brain injury rehabilitation facility. Just last week the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on a case where children were abused by a staff member at a Kennesaw day care center. According to the article, an investigation revealed that other employees of the day care center knew the abuse was happening! Although physical abuse is perhaps the most common form of abuse, it is not the only kind of child abuse. Many children are victims of neglect, or sexual abuse, or emotional abuse.

In 2005, 899,000 children in the U.S. were victims of child abuse, neglect and maltreatment: 90% suffered neglect, 3.6 suffered medical neglect, 13% were physically abused, 4% were sexually abused and 1% were psychologically mistreated. Children who have been abused may display:

a poor self image
sexual acting out
inability to trust or love others
aggressive, disruptive, and sometimes illegal behavior
anger and rage
self destructive or self abusive behavior, suicidal thoughts
passive or withdrawn behavior
fear of entering into new relationships or activities
anxiety and fears
school problems or failure
feelings of sadness or other symptoms of depression
flashbacks, nightmares
drug and alcohol abuse

Proper treatment through experienced professionals is the key to starting to heal the damage. Legal action is often the only way that those who allow the sexual abuse to occur will take responsibility for their failures.

Continue reading "Physical & Sexual Abuse At Georgia Day Care Centers" »

March 30, 2009

Drug or Prescription Errors Can Cause Death and Serious Injury

As Georgia injury lawyers, we often get calls about pharmacy mistakes and prescription errors being committed by medical providers, including drug stores. Many times, the mistakes are caught before any damage is done; however, sometimes serious injury or death occurs. Recently, we read about a case where a pharmacist at a Wal-Mart store allegedly mislabeled a pill bottle, resulting in a woman in her 70's taking twice the recommended and prescribed dose of a blood pressure medication. As a result, she has suffered serious injury and almost died. Apparently the woman’s physician quickly discovered the pharmacy error but not before she suffered permanent heart damage and incurred substantial medical expenses.

In 2006, it was estimated that more than 1.5 million Americans were injured every year by drug errors in hospitals, nursing homes and doctor’s offices. Even as far back as 1999, it was estimated that at least 7,000 people die annually from drug errors. There are many reasons for the errors that occur. Most prescriptions are hand written and in some cases are difficult to read. In addition, many times there are bad interactions between different drugs a patient may be taking. Technology alone has the potential to eliminate some of these errors but industry and government has been slow to implement a comprehensive plan, including E-prescribing. For now, consumers must be aggressive in questioning doctors, nurses and pharmacists about their medications whether they are looking out for a friend or loved one in a nursing home or hospital or handling their own prescription medication at home.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured as a result of drug store errors or prescription mis-labeling, contact an experienced Georgia injury lawyer at Finch McCranie, LLP.

March 14, 2009

Nursing Home Elder Abuse and Neglect

The Georgia injury lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP have represented many victims of nursing home abuse over the years. With our aging population, we expect the numbers of these cases to increase. Nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect of the elderly and vulnerable in nursing homes and other facilities occurs in many forms. A Georgia nursing home lawyer is here to assist your loved ones with holding the wrongdoers accountable. Some types of abuse are obvious such as elder sexual or elder physical assault or financial exploitation. Other forms of abuse and neglect are less noticeable and are often the result of having fewer nursing staff and aides than are needed and required. Staffing and training issues lead to many forms of avoidable neglect such as: falls, pressure ulcers (bed-sores), medications errors, dehydration and malnourishment, urinary tract infections, unsupervised residents wandering or suffering burn injuries and a multitude of other problems.

If you suspect abuse or neglect to any vulnerable adult, please contact the lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP.

January 30, 2009

Nursing Home Rating Scale - A Great Consumer Tool

In addition to representing victims of trucking accidents and automobile accidents, Finch McCranie, LLP also represents victims of nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect. including patients who have sustained decubitus ulcers (bed sores), falls and brutality in nursing homes.
In one case we handled, our client who suffered from Alzheimers Disease was actually struck in the face by one of the caseworkers. When struck the client fell, breaking her hip. She underwent surgery to repair the hip; however, the trauma of the surgery led to her death. Our investigation revealed the “qualified” care giver on the Alzheimers ward, had actually been a kitchen worker just months before she assaulted our elderly client.
While it is important for families to always visit a nursing home before their loved one is admitted and to continue to monitor care once an admissions takes place, some further information can now be obtained from a new system that rates nursing home care across the country. A five-star rating system has been established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This federal agency oversees the quality of care in the nation’s nursing homes. You can access the nursing home ratings by clicking here.
If a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect call the injury lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP (800) 228-9159 for a free consultation.

January 28, 2009

Georgia Jury Awards $1.25 Million for Neglect by Nursing Home

The lawyers at Finch McCranie, LLP have seen many different types of injuries result from being in various nursing homes. Some injuries are the result of being assaulted by nursing home staff or other patients and others are the result of nursing home neglect. Recently the family of a man who died four years ago at a Georgia nursing home was awarded $1.25 million after the jury found that the nursing home’s neglect was responsible for his wrongful death. Tucker Nursing Center allegedly provided inadequate care to the man when he was admitted in 2002. Nine months later, he had to be hospitalized for a bed sore that infected his left buttock to the bone, according to his attorney, and ultimately put him in a death spiral. He died in June of 2004.

Elderly people are entitled to basic safety, respect and dignity. If you are someone you love is a victim of elder abuse or nursing home abuse, you have the right to hold the abuser responsible in Court. Finch McCranie, LLP has represented injured Georgians in nursing home law suits and other personal injury suits for over 40 years. For a free consultation, call our Atlanta Office today at 1-800-228-9159.

January 21, 2009

Brain Injuries and Death Often Result From Falls

As Georgia personal injury lawyers we have represented many people who have died or sustained serious injuries as a result of falling. Many of them are senior citizens and many of the accidents are a result of dangerous conditions caused by the negligence of stores, restaurants and other businesses. Although the elderly most fear breaking a hip when they fall, a government study indicates that hitting their head can also have deadly consequences. Brain injuries account for half of all deaths from falls.
The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the first comprehensive national look at the role brain injuries play in fatal elderly falls. It examined 16,000 deaths in 2005 that listed unintentional falls as an underlying cause of death. The study found that slightly more than half of the deaths were attributed to brain injuries. The other deaths were due to a variety of causes including heart failure, strokes, infections and existing chronic conditions worsened by a broken hip or other injuries sustained in a fall.

The attorneys at Finch McCranie, LLP have been standing up for the rights of injured victims for over 40 years. If you or a loved one has fallen and been injured as a result of the negligence of a store or other business, call us at (800) 228-9159.

December 21, 2008

Nursing Home Quality Ratings

Abuse of elderly and disabled persons is one of the most disturbing matters our Atlanta based attorneys see. A report issued last Thursday by the Centers for Medicare and Services has revealed that almost 22 percent of the nation's nearly 16,000 nursing homes received the federal government's lowest rating in a new five-star system, while 12 percent received the highest ranking possible.

The new star ranking system has not been well received by the nursing home industry. It has been criticized for being too simplistic for a complicated care system. However, federal officials see the new rating system as a way to challenge nursing homes to improve the care they provide to nearly 1.5 million patients nationwide.

Under the new system, five stars means a nursing home ranks ''much above average,'' four star indicates ''above average,'' three means ''about average,'' two is ''below average'' with a one indicating ''much below average.'' The rankings will be updated quarterly.

The ratings are based on three major criteria: state inspections, staffing levels and quality measures, such as the percentage of residents with bed sores. The nursing homes will receive stars for each of those categories as well as for their overall quality.

Consumer advocates have warned that consumers should consider the star ratings, but not solely rely on them when comparing facilities. They have concerns that that nursing homes may appear in the ratings to give better care than they actually do.

The Centers For Medicare and Services used three year's worth of inspections to rate nursing homes based on an annual survey designed to measure how well homes protect the health and safety of their residents. The measurement for staffing reports the number of hours of nursing and other staff dedicated per patient each day. The measurement for quality looks at 10 areas, including the percent of patients with bed sores after their first 90 days in the nursing home and the number of residents whose mobility worsened after admission.

States with the highest percentage of nursing homes with a one-star ranking were: Louisiana, 39.6 percent; Georgia, 32.4 percent; Virginia, 32.4 percent; and Tennessee, 30.9 percent.

States with the highest percentage of homes with five stars were: Delaware, 30.2 percent; Alaska, 26.7 percent; New Hampshire, 24.4 percent; and Hawaii, 23.9 percent.

November 24, 2008

Patient Abuse in Healthcare Facilities

Abuse of patients in medical or mental facilities is a major problem in the United States. Our attorneys frequently handle cases in which patients have suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of facility staff or other patients. These cases are extremely disturbing as the victims are usually some of the most vulnerable and helpless members of society.

A recent article in the Los Angeles times focused upon this issue. According to the article, Psychiatric Solutions Inc. was on its way to becoming the nation's leading provider of private psychiatric care when it purchased Sierra Vista Hospital in Sacramento, Californis in 2005.

The company put its tested business formula into action: Staffing fell. Beds filled up. Profits soared . While the results made investors happy, for some patients, federal records revealed that for patients it proved dangerous and at times deadly.

Incidents revealed in federal reports include that involving Ramona Knapp, 51, who was left fatally brain damaged after hospital workers restrained her improperly, pinning her to the floor.

In March 2007, a 29-year-old woman was mistakenly given six times the prescribed dose of a potent antipsychotic drug. Even after 15 hours, she was too weak to swallow.

The records show that Seven Burton, 55, checked into Sierra Vista Hospital for treatment of alcohol abuse and depression. Upon admission, complained of chest pains. The intake nurse didn't notify a doctor because, as she later told regulators, "he didn't look sick."

Burton was discovered the next morning, facedown on the floor of his room, shaking and sweating. Hospital staff members place him back in bed and paged a psychiatrist, getting no response. Two and a half hours later, a nurse found him blue and not breathing.

An investigation by ProPublica, a public interest news organization, revealed that these incidents at Sierra Vista Hospital are among numerous others involving abuse and neglect at PSI facilities nationwide,
PSI hospitals often fare worse than comparable private hospitals in meeting government standards for patient care, according to an analysis of state and federal inspection reports.

Unfortunately, these incidents are not confined to California or PSI hospitals. Our firm is currently pursuing legal action on behalf of two clients who were assaulted while in mental health facilities here in Georgia. If you or a loved one has been the victim if abuse or assault in a hospital, nursing home, or mental health facility, legal representation should be sought immediately.

November 7, 2008

Georgia Nursing Home Abuse & Negligence Cases

For Georgia lawyers handling nursing home abuse and negligence cases, we are seeing new litigation hurdles to overcome. Nursing home owners are creating new corporate structures to disguise the actual ownership of the nursing homes. It is a "corporate shell game" where the actual owners set up holding corporations to avoid responsibility. If you look at the way the facility is established, there will be a contractual relationship between a management company and a nursing home, where the same human being is on both sides of the contract and the management company is being paid a disproportionately high amount of money compared to its services. Another common scenario is for an owner to set up a real estate investment trust that leases real estate to the nursing home at rates that sometimes exceed the entire value of the property. A separate LLC holds the nursing home license, but the owner sucks all of the money out the facility via management fees or rent so that there is no money in the corporation that owns the license.

Another scenario that we are seeing is that owners of nursing homes are electing not to insure the nursing home to make it appear that they are “judgment proof" and to discourage claims. This significantly increases the amount of work involved in a case to ferret out the corporate assets of the nursing home but it can be done.

Fortunately, there are a number of legislative developments in the nursing home area. The Nursing Home Arbitration Act which would ban pre-dispute mandatory arbitration agreements in nursing home contracts, recently passed Committees in both Houses of Congress. Another recently introduced bill, The Nursing Home Transparency and Quality of Care Improvement Act, HR7128, would improve reporting and transparency of nursing home ownership.