Attorney General Files Suits Against Slew of Pennsylvania Nursing Homes

The Pennsylvania attorney general's office on Wednesday sued the operator of 36 nursing homes in the state, saying the staff at some of the facilities failed to meet residents' most basic human needs, falsified records about care and willfully deceived state inspectors.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane's office filed the 101-page complaint in Commonwealth Court and encouraged others with complaints about Golden Living facilities to contact her health care section.

The number of certified nursing assistants at some Golden Living facilities was woefully inadequate to care for residents, many of whom are Medicaid enrollees paid for by taxpayers, Kane's office said in the complaint. Basic care that was promised and paid for was never provided, the complaint said.

"Defendants' staffing practices cost residents their dignity and comfort, and jeopardized their health and safety," the attorney general's complaint said.

The lawsuit said the parent company of the "enormously profitable" Golden Living facilities was "unjustly enriched" and it asked the court to order payback of that money from the 14 Golden Living centers named in the complaint.

The 14 centers are located in Harrisburg, Camp Hill, Altoona, Lansdale, Clarion, Gettysburg, Mount Lebanon, Monroeville, Phoenixville, Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre, Tunkhannock, Erie and Pottsville. A spokesman for the attorney general's office said the investigation was ongoing.

A spokeswoman for the Fort Smith, Arkansas-based parent company did not respond to telephone calls and emails Wednesday.

The complaint comes two weeks after a Philadelphia-based legal aid organization, Community Legal Services, accused the Pennsylvania Department of Health of failing to properly investigate complaints about nursing homes or enforce regulations that are designed to protect residents' safety.

In that report, Community Legal Services found that Department of Health inspectors dismissed 92 percent of complaints from 2012 through 2014 for about 46 nursing homes that operated in Philadelphia. It also said the department minimized the severity of violations, and never found violations in follow-up inspections.

Pennsylvania's health secretary, Karen Murphy, said Wednesday she was "deeply concerned" by the allegations in the lawsuit and would step up efforts to improve the agency's regulatory enforcement. The agency inspects 704 nursing homes across Pennsylvania with about 88,000 beds.

In the meantime, LeadingAge PA, a Pennsylvania trade association for not-for-profit providers of services for the elderly, said a Wolf administration plan to restructure Medicaid reimbursements would reward some of the state's lowest-rated nursing homes, as well as 13 of the 14 Golden Living centers named in the complaint.

According to the attorney general's office, managers at the Golden Living facilities pressured nursing assistants to ensure that paperwork showed no tasks undone and, in some cases, instructed that records be falsified.

"The Golden Living facilities knew or should have known that their records were not accurate, because it was impossible to deliver all of the care needed by their residents with the level of staffing available to provide such care," the lawsuit said.

The Golden Living facilities also deceived Department of Health inspectors about the true conditions and level of care they provided by increasing staff levels during survey inspections, the attorney general's office said.

"In reality, when DOH surveyors were not at the Golden Living Facilities, staffing levels went back down to normal levels and office and administrative staff rarely or never provided direct care to residents," the lawsuit said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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