State News for November 2017

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A power outage from Hurricane Irma in caused 14 resident deaths. The storm battered the Miami area in September.
A power outage from Hurricane Irma in caused 14 resident deaths. The storm battered the Miami area in September.

LeadingAge Florida challenges governor over new requirements in wake of Hurricane Irma deaths

FLORIDA — LeadingAge Florida filed a legal challenge in late September over Gov. Rick Scott's (R) emergency mandate following Hurricane Irma. The provider organization is arguing the rule would “create an emergency rather than solve one.”

Scott announced the  new requirements after Hurricane Irma caused an air conditioner outage at a Hollywood, FL, skilled nursing facility that resulted in 14 resident deaths. The mandate calls for skilled nursing and assisted living providers to “obtain ample resources,” including a generator, to maintain operations and comfortable temperatures for at least 96 hours after a power outage. Scott gave providers 60 days from the requirements' posting to comply.

The deadline could make the situation worse, LeadingAge Florida President and CEO Steve Bahmer told McKnight's Long-Term Care News.

“The problem is every expert we talked to in every related field that we would rely on has said that 60 days is just not possible,” he said.

The Miami Herald reported two search warrants for Hollywood Hills were filed by police in September. The newspaper also has sued under Florida's open records law for audio of all 911 calls made from the center on Sept. 13.

MIDWEST

EEOC files suit against SNF

INDIANA — Black employees were subjected to slurs and racial discrimination at a skilled nursing and senior living facility in Evansville, IN, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Defendants Village at Hamilton Pointe LLC and Tender Loving Care Management's prohibited black employees from entering certain resident rooms due to resident preference for non-black caregivers. Additionally, African-American employees were referred to as “boy,” “nappy,” and “n*****,” the lawsuit says.

Shawn Cates, executive director of The Village at Hamilton Pointe, said in a statement to McKnight's Long-Term Care News that the company does not comment on ongoing litigation. But the “allegations are without merit, and we intend to vigorously defend this case.”

“Hamilton Pointe is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and the company takes its obligations to its employees seriously,” Cates said. “We will continue to focus on our employees and our mission to provide high quality medical care to our residents.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says employers cannot discriminate against an individual with respect to race and that it is illegal to subject employees to racial harassment. Seven employees said they attempted to bring their concerns to management.

“It is difficult to comprehend that 50 years have elapsed since the adoption of the Civil Rights Act, and employers still do not understand that it is unacceptable to honor the discriminatory racial preferences of some or any of their customers,” said Kenneth Lee Bird, regional attorney of the Indianapolis District Office. 

The EEOC said it attempted a pre-litigation settlement first. Other named defendants are Hamilton Pointe Assisted Living Center and the Cottages at Hamilton Pointe. TLC Management is located in Marion. The EEOC is asking for a jury trial.

Oxy settlement offered

OHIO — A Rocky River nursing home has offered a resident's family a $375,000 settlement related to allegations the resident died after being given 20 times a prescribed dose of oxycodone.

Susanne Lawrence's family sued Normandy Manor due to Lawrence's accidental overdose death in 2015, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. She had been given 500 milligrams by nursing staff over several hours rather than the prescribed 25 milligrams.

Requests for comment from Normandy Manor were not returned.

Staff salmonella source?

MINNESOTA — Fifteen people fell ill and two were hospitalized due to a salmonella outbreak at a Duluth, MN, nursing home in August, the state health department announced in September.

Among those ill, five residents at Bayshore Residence and Rehabilitation tested positive for salmonella, according to local reports. Four staff members also became ill, and the disease is believed to have spread through contaminated hands of staff or residents.

Dems angle for expansion

Wisconsin — Almost 20 Democrats have announced their intention to run for governor against Gov. Scott Walker (R), and all so far have said they would take federal Medicaid expansion money.

Their remarks, at the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans in October, were appreciated, according to the Associated Press, with attendees waving “I support expanding Medicaid” signs.

Walker has supported the GOP's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and said the state couldn't pay for an expansion if federal funds evaporated. 

The gubernatorial primary is in August and the general election in November 2018.

NORTHEAST

Large grant for Alzheimer's

MAINE — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Community Living has awarded $957,000 to strengthen worker training and services for those with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

The three-year grant is one of 11 awarded nationally from the ACL. An estimated 80% of nursing home residents in Maine have dementia or impaired decision-making.

The MaineHealth Alzheimer's Disease Partnership is meant to help primary care providers and community programs across rural Lincoln County and Greater Portland, with a goal of identifying those who need additional support. This includes enhanced referral protocols and expanding dementia care services.

Fentanyl snatch accusation

NEW HAMPSHIRE — A nursing home employee was indicted on charges of stealing a nursing home resident's fentanyl patches, according to the state attorney general's office.

Former resident care assistant Stephanie McMahon, 39, of Derry, NH, is accused of removing three fentanyl patches from a patient's medical storage box on two occasions while working at an unnamed Salem, NH, nursing home. 

McMahon faces felony charges that could mean 14 years in state prison and/or a $25,000 fine.

SOUTHWEST

Private nurses get boost

OKLAHOMA — The Oklahoma Health Care Authority voted to increase the SoonerCare rate for private duty nursing services in September, giving a victory to agencies and some nurses.

The new rate will be $30.20, up 19% from $25.20 per hour. The last rate increase was in 2007.

Private duty nurses work with one patient at home, and often serve those on ventilators or with severe disabilities. Advocates for the raise say the new scale will allow agencies to compete with hospitals.

While it also may mean more competition for nursing homes, some healthcare providers said it currently can be difficult to discharge patients who need a private duty nurse. 

Medicaid could expand
UTAH — Utah Decides Healthcare is backing a ballot initiative that would put Medicaid expansion up for a vote next year.

Expansion would reach up to 120,000 people in Utah, advocates said. The Utah Legislature has failed at passing a Medicaid expansion.

The ballot wording has to be approved by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, and the campaign must hold seven public hearings and collect more than 113,000 signatures from registered voters. If successful, the ballot would be up in November 2018. 

Should Medicaid expansion start, the cost would be $91 million a year, which would be covered by a state increase in sales tax to 4.85%, with additional costs covered by the federal government. About 47,000 low-income state residents could be covered under the expansion.

SNF regains billing status

New Mexico — A Santa Fe nursing home has corrected its quality programs and can resume billing Medicare and Medicaid, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in October.

The Casa Real nursing home can bill for admissions that occurred after Sept. 10, CMS said in a letter. For more than two months it was barred because the agency said it wasn't meeting federal standards, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Casa Real is one of two facilities in Santa Fe that accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. Inspections found problems ranging from expired food and drugs, medication errors and nurse understaffing, the paper reported. Casa Real is operated by Preferred Care Partners Management Group, which declined to comment to the paper about the inspections.

NORTHWEST

State audit finds lapses

Oregon — A program to help low-income elders and those with disabilities stay in their homes isn't protecting them from harm, according to an audit from the Secretary of State's Office.

The report said the Oregon Department of Human Services has overwhelmed case workers. It also has failed to properly train home care workers and had difficultly tracking abuse, according to the Oregonian.

There are close to 15,500 people in the state-run program, which lets patients hire a home worker to address activities with daily living. The director said that people are receiving the long-term services they need.

Ashley Carson Cottingham, who directs the state's programs for aging and people with disabilities, told the newspaper: “We know that people do not want to receive their long-term care in an institution or nursing home setting for the most part. They want to remain in their own home.”

The program made up a bulk of more than $1 billion in funding for in-home care in Oregon from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2017, The Oregonian reported. This was the program's first audit, and included more than 70 interviews and more than 140 case files. 

SOUTH

COO works with police
GEORGIA — An Atlanta nursing home chief operating officer is helping police officers better understand dementia.

As a certified dementia trainer, Deke Cateau, chief operating officer of A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he hosted officers and civilian crime prevention inspectors with the Atlanta Police Department's Community Oriented Policing Section in September.

Officers and inspectors attending the meeting took a Virtual Dementia Tour from Second Wind Dreams and discussed tips on approaching someone with dementia.