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Several weeks ago hundreds of us nursing home reform advocates were delighted to learn that Extendicare (known to some of us as “Pretend-I-Care”), one of the worst-of-the-worst for-profit nursing home corporations, planned to sell all 21 of the facilities they owned within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. They are leaving Kentucky for the same reason they exited Florida several years ago: they couldn’t force our state’s legislators to support legislation that would make it more difficult to sue nursing homes for negligence. They didn’t have their way during the 2012 Kentucky legislative session, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars Extendicare and other nursing home owners have spent over the past year to bribe (I’m sorry, I mean “influence”) lawmakers with the hope of making it more difficult to sue nursing homes for providing negligent care.

Extendicare is truly one of the greediest companies you will ever encounter! Greedy to the point that the management of one of their southern Indiana nursing homes treated their kitchen staff to a nice dinner party in appreciation for them figuring how to feed their residents three meals and two snacks per day for less than 75 cents! More money is spent feeding dogs and cats each day than is spent by Extedicare to feed their (human) residents. That’s pathetic enough, but then to “celebrate” this new low point in resident care with a dinner party? That’s just plain evil. Greed should be a source of shame, not celebration.

When a Kentucky-based law firm that takes on cases of nursing home neglect published a “So glad to see y’all leave!” press release following Extendicare’s exit announcement, Tim Lukenda (Extendicare’s President and CEO), attempted to defend his outfit’s badly battered reputation. One of the statistics Likenda cited as something he is proud of is something that sane people would cite as a point of shame. He noted that within the year prior to the announcement that Extendicare was pulling out of the Commonwealth, “14% of our Kentucky [nursing homes] have received deficiency-free surveys.”

Let me break that down for you: only 3 of the 21 nursing homes owned by Extendicare in Kentucky were not cited for deficiencies by state inspectors. 14% (3 nursing homes out of 21) had excellent inspection reports. Wow. Impressive? Hardly! Pretty sad actually. What other corporation would be proud to point out that 86% of their facilities were doing a sub-standard job? Not many.

So here’s hoping that the Texas-based nursing home chain that Extendicare has sold all of their 21 Kentucky nursing homes to will provide a much higher level of care than their previous owners ever did. Sadly, it wouldn’t take much for the new owners to do a better job than Exitendicare.

Earlier this afternoon I received a very important reminder from an individual who inspects (a/k/a surveys) nursing homes. Each state has a “survey agency”  that is in charge of inspecting nursing homes. The name of the agency is different in each state (in Kentucky this agency works through the Office of Inspector General, while in Indiana and many other states this agency is part of the state Board of Health). Whatever they call this agency in your state, these folks need to hear from family members of nursing home residents and nursing home staff regarding unsafe staffing level and any other care concerns.  Your calls to your state agency (and regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman) are essential in order for problems to be identified and corrective action to be taken! The state survey manager who contacted me wrote,

“When you (and this goes for both families of nursing home residents and nursing home staff) have concerns about the care of a resident or unsafe staffing levels, be sure to CALL your state survey agency! Their number is REQUIRED to be posted in all Medicare / Medicaid-certified nursing homes. We surveyors (inspectors) are here to protect the residents of nursing homes and assure they are getting quality care.

We surveyors (inspectors) are on the side of the residents and staff. Although we are constantly lied to by facility staff and Administrators, we can get to the truth.

In addition to contacting your state survey agency, be sure to get the Ombudsmen involved too! They can be a great resource.

The bottom line is that if we (regulators) don’t know about your concerns, we may not be able to pick up on these issues. Complain to your State survey agency to get your issues investigated and also help prevent others from receiving poor care!”

Some nursing homes have signs posted that ask family members to speak to the facilities administrator when they have concerns (I’ve seen one such sign that practically begged family members to NOT call the state survey agency before talking to the administrator). While this is an appropriate action to take in most circumstances, I believe the state survey agency and Ombudsman should be contacted FIRST when resident safety and well-being is at risk. If speaking to the nursing home’s administrator doesn’t resolve your concern, then by all means call the state agency and Ombudsman!

Nursing Home News Watch

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