Another nursing home horror story involves Texas-based Cathedral Rock Corp., a company that which bought 11 Missouri and Illinois nursing homes in 2001. At the time, owner and CEO C. Kent Harrington told employees that residents were the first priority and would get “extra-special treatment.” According to media reports, however, the real priority was packing “elderly and disabled clients into those homes — including five in the St. Louis area that were understaffed and provided substandard care.” Until 2005, the services at the facilities “were grossly inadequate” and represented “a complete failure of care,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Dorothy McMurtry. She stated this in a court hearing last month as the company waived indictment and pleaded guilty to health care fraud.
Cathedral Rock also settled a whistle-blower civil lawsuit filed by nurses in 2003 that triggered what officials said was a relatively rare criminal prosecution of a nursing home over poor care. Five Cathedral Rock-owned companies that ran those homes agreed to pay $1 million in criminal fines and penalties, and $628,000 in the civil settlement. Harrington is to pay $100,000 in the criminal case.
The charges against the nursing home included some very shocking actions by the facility. Among the claims was that the homes’ staff doctored patient charts, falsified drug records and failed to give necessary medications. Some residents suffered from bed sores, others wandered away, one ended up on a roof, another was found days later, and one died after falling from a window. The homes were repeatedly cited by regulators, fined and penalized. According to government officials, the homes filed corrective plans, but then failed to comply or “misrepresented” their efforts to comply. All the while, Harrington and other senior staff at the facilities were aware of the problems, but continued to bill Medicare and Medicaid for care that was either not provided or essentially “worthless.” An internal email message gives a clear indication of how the facilities were run.
FTB (fill the beds) is everything, read a 2004 e-mail from a Cathedral Rock regional vice president to another executive. Whereas compliance is important and cost control is as well, CENSUS is to be your primary focus.
In 2004, Cathedral Rock had 2,600 beds in 25 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in Missouri, Illinois, Texas, Ohio and South Carolina. Its website currently lists 1,308 beds in 15 homes in Texas and New Mexico. According to a spokesman, the company no longer operates facilities in Missouri or Illinois. Criminal prosecutions of nursing homes over their care are difficult. The cases are document-intensive and witnesses are often infirm and may die during the case. That pretty much leaves the civil justice system or “forced arbitration” as the only places where justice can be done. You can figure out pretty quickly which route the nursing home industry prefers of the two alternatives.
Source: St. Louis Dispatch
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