Monday, October 15, 2007

Elder Abuse for Profit

by Lisa Nuremberg

In a chilling article that ran on September 23, The New York Times analyzed trends in patient care in nursing homes purchased by private investment groups. Using Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data, The Times looked at more than 1,200 nursing homes purchased by large private investment groups since 2000 and more than 14,000 other homes; they compared the investor-owned homes against national averages in multiple categories, including complaints received by regulators, health and safety violations cited by regulators, fines levied by state and federal authorities, and the performance of homes as reported in the Minimum Data Set Repository and the Online Survey, Certification and Reporting database.

Not surprisingly, they found that investors' profits came at the expense of patient care.

The article focused on Habana Health Care Center, a 150-bed nursing home in Tampa, Florida, which was struggling when a group of large private investment firms purchased it and 48 other homes in 2002. According to the article:

The facility’s managers quickly cut costs. Within months, the number of clinical registered nurses at the home was half what it had been a year earlier, records collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, indicate. Budgets for nursing supplies, resident activities and other services also fell, according to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. The investors and operators were soon earning millions of dollars a year from their 49 homes.

Residents fared less well. Over three years, 15 at Habana died from what their families contend was negligent care in lawsuits filed in state court. Regulators repeatedly warned the home that staff levels were below mandatory minimums. When regulators visited, they found malfunctioning fire doors, unhygienic kitchens and a resident using a leg brace that was broken.

Abridged =>>

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