Massachusetts Nursing Home to Face Hefty Sanctions for Substandard Care

Woodbriar Health Center, a nursing home and rehabilitation facility in Wilmington, MA has incurred fines of $278,900 for substandard care. According to a letter made public earlier this month, this fine may increase to the tune for $10,000 a day until the facility rectifies the most significant problem areas. Sanctions are determined by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services primarily based on recommendations by state inspection agencies. The total amount of sanctions are determined based on the severity of the infraction.

Since December of last year, Woodbriar Health Center has come under fire primarily due to the deaths of two residents. On Christmas Day, a resident, Mary Meuse was dropped from a mechanical lift and sustained two broken legs. Nursing staff failed to inform either the resident or her family about the breakage for at least the first 24 hours. She died two days later on December 27th.

On February 8th, while the facility was still undergoing an investigation, another resident fell out of bed. There were no outwardly noticeable injuries and the resident was put back to bed with the instruction that nursing staff should check on the resident every two hours until morning. The resident was found dead at 5:30AM the next morning with no indication that any of the nursing staff had performed the required checks. This incident is even more troubling because according to state documents, the entire staff had received training on guidelines and procedures if that exact fall were to occur. More troubling still, just two days prior to the second death, a resident who required assistance to walk, fell and suffered a dislocated hip. A staff member had seen her trying to walk alone but had not been properly informed that she required assistance.

Woodbriar Health Center is owned by Synergy Health Centers which also owns several other problem plagued nursing homes. A statement given by a spokesman of Synergy stated their disagreement with the states findings and believed the penalties would create “unnecessary confusion” among residents and their families. Synergy further stated they will work with state and federal regulators to resolve any health and safety issues. They also plan to appeal the state’s findings. Although Woodbriar has incurred the largest sanctions in the area they are not the only facility to struggle with health and safety violations.

In February of this year the Rehabilitation & Nursing Center at Everett was inspected by the state. The state report notes that the week prior to the inspection a resident suffering from dementia tried to climb out of a broken window in the dining room and fractured an ankle. The report also noted the mold and grime caked windows and further stated that the facility was “dehumanizing”. In 2014, the Medford Rehabilitation & Nursing Center had been cited for so many violations it was placed on a list reserved for the “nation’s most problem-plagued nursing homes”.

In an in-depth article published by The Globe earlier this year, it was discovered, after reviewing the 2014 financial reports of 396 Massachusetts nursing homes that for-profit nursing homes spend less on food and nursing care than non-profit nursing homes. Moreover, for-profit nursing homes are cited for health and safety violations 60% more often than their non-profit counterparts.

Professor Charlene Harrington at the University of California, San Francisco, has concluded that many nursing homes operating as for-profit companies have become adept at hiding money, by shifting it to rental companies which are still owned by the nursing homes thus padding the take home salaries of owners and leaving less for nursing home care. Elissa Sherman, president of LeadingAge Massachusetts, stated “It’s one of the reasons I always tell consumers that nonprofits, in general, are able to spend more on the things that impact the quality of care and the quality of life.”



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