Suit opens floodgate to nursing home deficiencies

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By Juanice Gray, Editor

Reports on social media this week put Natchitoches Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC, (NNRC) in the spotlight concerning the spread of Coronavirus.

The post by Joshua Bush Sr. alleged a “bad breakout of COVID-19.” Bush said during a telephone interview Monday that his aunt went to visit his grandmother, a resident there, last Thursday and was told she was in the hospital with Covid-19. “They did not contact her kids,” Bush said.

That spotlight intensified when a suit was filed Thursday, April 29 by an NNRC resident against the facility and two administrators/ employees and/or executive officers, Stacey Masters and Miranda Green. The suit alleges the defendants “deviated from and/or breached its promise to provide professional care …..and breached and/or ignored the guidelines and recommendations of the WHO, CDC, Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), and common sense guidelines for taking care of elderly patients in a nursing home setting during these times.”

The suit further states the resident contracted Covid-19 and is currently in ICU, on a ventilator, at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center. Communication requests via email to Casey Masters, NNRC executive director, received no response. Voice mails to NNRC’s parent company, DTD HC, LLC, were not returned. It was confirmed, however, from an undisclosed, reliable source, that at least one resident from NNRC passed away this week. The cause of death is not made public until a death certificate is issued.

LDH numbers posted daily at noon reflect additional cases and deaths since Monday. There were 84 cases Thursday, up seven from Monday with two additional deaths this week. Kevin Litten, Communications strategist for LDH, said Wednesday, “The Louisiana Department of Health has not been identifying specific nursing homes and their number of positive cases. We have been posting a total number of nursing homes where patients were infected, the number of positive cases and deaths.”

Litton said the website numbers posted daily at noon are accurate, but are not real-time numbers. There is a lag in posting results.

NNRC, a 98 bed facility, is owned by DTD HC, LLC (50 percent), D&N, LLC (50 percent) and others including Norbert Bennett and Donald Denz. DTD HC, LLC is based at 3690 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park, NY 14127. Green is listed as the managing employee since Aug. 1, 2019. The parent company owns approximately 34 nursing centers across the country operating under several names. A Medicare.gov Inspection Report dated Jan. 15, 2020, shows NNRC has a history of deficiencies and citations, including a $6,893 federal fine on Feb. 9, 2018. The report does not state the nature of the citation, however the Medicare.gov Health Inspection Summary states that on that date, the facility had a Level 3, Actual Harm.

The deficiency was listed as corrected March 13, 2018. Nursing homes are rated by stars based on health inspections, staffing and quality of resident care measures. NNRC has a health inspection rating of “1 out of 5 stars, Much Below Average”, a staffing rating of “2 out of 5 stars, Below Average” and a Quality Measures Rating of “1 out of 5 stars, Much Below Average” according to the official US Government site for Medicare nursing home profile page.

Among the deficiencies according to the report was a lack of adequate nursing staff to meet the needs of residents and having a licensed nurse in charge on each shift. The report states the Natchitoches facility failed to ensure there was adequate staff in the facility to respond to call lights in a timely manner.

In one instance a resident “…stated there had been times that he had to get out of bed, into his wheelchair and roll himself to the front desk to tell staff face to face what he needed” and another “has called the nurses station from her cell phone after waiting an hour for assistance” while another of the 15 sampled residents said “she had pressed the call light for assistance this week, and after a long time, a CNA came into her room and turned off the call light without asking what she needed and said they would be right back. She stated she waited for over 30 minutes but that no one ever came back.”

The report also states that a review of staff time sheets revealed “…night shift staffing consisted of 2 LPNs and 1 CNA” and an interview with an employee “…stated there  were times when all the night shift staff were in the room of the one-to-one resident due  to his behaviors and that there was no one available to answer call lights” and there were instances where there was only one CAN on a night shift “residents may have to wait 30 to 35 minutes after calling for assistance if she is providing care to another resident.”

An interview Jan. 15 “…with S2 DON revealed the facility does not have a  call light policy. She stated that the call light system does not have an intercom…” The facility was also deficient because it “failed to include the Medical Director  or designee in the Quality Assessment and Assurance process” and another for failure “… to ensure the facility’s grievance policy was followed.”

The report stated there were 12 total health citations and three complaint inspections from April 1, 2019 to March 3, 2020. A resident’s right deficiency of “Immediately tell the resident, the resident’s doctor, and a family member of situations (injury/decline/room, etc.) that affect the resident” mentioned in the Dec. 12, 2019, report was noted as corrected Jan 7, 2020.

All deficiencies were rated Level 2 which equals minimal harm or potential for actual harm according to the Medicare.gov report. The local suit, filed by T. Taylor Townsend in 10th Judicial District Court, is the latest in a lengthy list of suits filed across the DTD HC, LLC, properties. The local suit cites administrative negligence in 14 areas for each of the three defendants.

All include failing to take timely, proper and effective actions to eliminate and/or minimize risk for exposure to Covid-19, make available appropriate medical attention for Covid-19 and to adhere to accepted standards of medical care required under the circumstances.