Although the Medford MultiCare Center for Living received passing grades from state regulators, seven staff members were escorted out in handcuffs in February following the death of a 72-year-old resident.
Attorney General (AG) Eric T. Schneiderman’s office made the arrests and also filed a lawsuit that includes allegations that that Medford MultiCare Center for Living was what Newsday described as having “a deplorable, 11-year history of abuse, neglect, inadequate staffing, cover-ups, criminal convictions, and profiteering.” The facility’s owners deny the claims.
Should the claims be found to be valid, a look at the oversight of nursing homes, in general, may be warranted. If issues with the state’s oversight of nursing homes is revealed to be lacking, that, too, may lead to questions about risks to residents at this and other nursing homes.
The state Department of Health, the department that oversees nursing homes in collaboration with federal officials, inspects every facility every 18 months, according to Newsday. Inspectors must also handle complaint and incident reports made by staff, residents, and others. The department must rely on what it is told by nursing home staff and nursing home-produced records received during inspections.
These reports are not always reliable. In fact, since 2008, just 60 of 5,000 incidents and accidents at the Medford facility were reported, as legally mandated, according to AG Schneiderman’s lawsuit. What’s more, since 2008, just 17 Medford employees have been convicted of negligence and falsifying records, according to Newsday.
Astonishing measures that included a hidden camera in a resident’s room and video from security cameras, were used to obtain information on reported incidences. Without these measures, state officials must upgrade their oversight to ensure quality care is delivered by all nursing homes, according to Newsday. For example, health department officials should conduct more frequent and stringent on-site inspections. The State Legislature should provide required funding should additional staff be needed, wrote Newsday. In fact, federal regulations mandate nursing homes must have “sufficient nursing staff.” Details of what this means may be called for and minimum staffing levels may also require definition.
AG Schneiderman’s office accused the owners of the Medford facility of profiting from $60 million since 2003 by use of profit sharing, loans, salaries, management fees, and charitable donations that were made to family run foundations. This, all while cutting staff, food, medications, linens, and diapers Newsday reported. Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act mandates health insurers spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect on patient care. Insurers that do not, must provide the difference back to policy holders. Because Medicaid and Medicare pay the bulk of nursing home bills, the rebates would go, for the most part, to taxpayers.
If AG Schneiderman is correct, Medford’s operators deceived health officials.