Nursing Home Addresses Safety Concerns, Deals with Allegations of Sexual Abuse

1075604_29978302_02202012.jpgA Rhode Island nursing home faced an ultimatum from the government in January: fix various problems by February 1 or lose its status as a Medicare and Medicaid provider. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency tasked with managing both programs, sent a letter to Hebert Nursing Home in Smithfield, Rhode Island on January 19 outlining infractions of seven regulations that the nursing home needed to address. The regulations in questions dealt with issues of mistreatment or neglect of residents, residents’ dignity and respect, residents’ well-being, administration of the facility, and the medical director’s responsibilities. A CMS spokesperson called the alleged infractions “serious” and said they posed “immediate jeopardy” for residents, but could not disclose many specific details of the allegations.

CMS has legal authority to monitor nursing homes that are part of the Medicare and Medicaid systems, and it has the responsibility of maintaining standards of quality in all of the nursing homes it monitors. As part of its corrective actions, CMS began fining Hebert $5,500 a day beginning December 22, 2011. It also stated that it would begin denying payments under both its programs for new patients after January 23. It gave Hebert’s administrators until February 1 to address CMS’s concerns, after which it would terminate Hebert’s involvement with Medicare and Medicaid. This would effectively destroy Hebert’s business since so many nursing home residents rely on one or both of these programs to pay for their care.

By the beginning of February, CMS had withdrawn its complaint after receiving a satisfactory response from Hebert, indicating that it was addressing CMS’s concerns. At about the same time, however, allegations publicly surfaced that several staff members had voiced concerns about the sexual abuse of a resident. Two certified nursing assistants and a psychiatric nurse reportedly gave statements to police on November 30 and December 1, 2011, describing incidents of sexual abuse they had witnessed at the nursing home.

The three employees stated that they saw two women sexually abusing their 89 year-old mother, a resident at the facility, on several occasions while visiting her. In their statements to police, they reported seeing the women touching their mother in her genital area and other acts of abuse. The two women reportedly told the workers that they needed to check their mother’s incontinence, but the psychiatric nurse claims that there would be no reason for them to do so manually.

CMS found that multiple staff members had brought the issue to the attention of Hebert’s administrators, and that the administration took no action to investigate the matter or prevent contact between the daughters and their mother. The daughters may have visited their mother as often as twice a day. The patient’s family reportedly moved her to another facility recently. Police and prosecutors concluded that there is not enough evidence to bring a criminal prosecution. The nursing home has made changes to its staff training, however, to make employees more aware of signs of sexual abuse and to establish clearer policies for investigating allegations of abuse.

Nursing homes have a duty to provide diligent care and a safe environment for their residents. The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen help obtain compensation for people injured due to abuse or neglect by nursing home staff. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Nursing Home Staffer Pleads Guilty to Abuse of a Resident, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, February 14, 2012
Former Nursing Home Staffer Sentenced in Sex Abuse Case, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, January 18, 2012
Nursing Home Abuse Leads to Fines, Lawsuits in Michigan, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, December 27, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Old bears’ by Steve Ford on stock.xchng.

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