Nursing homes fined: Feds find substandard care at 4 city facilities for elderly

Four city nursing homes were hit with federal fines for substandard care - including a Bronx home that let an epileptic man with impaired memory wander off the premises.

The feds fined Bronx Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare $36,450 for "failing to have systems in place to consistently identify, accurately assess and supervise" residents at risk for walking out.

When the man made his way to his house, he was also carrying a beer, his upset wife reported.

Administrator Jeff Sicklick said the incident was distressing to the staff and helped them improve their systems.

"Every employee from the receptionist to the kitchen staff to the nurses has been retrained, all five exits now lock automatically when a resident is wearing a wander guard and there is increased supervision for those who refuse to wear the monitors," he said.

A visit to the home last week by the Daily News showed photos of all residents at risk for wandering posted in the main office, where staff can see who is coming and going on a TV monitor with a two-week taping system.

"We are in full compliance now, and thank god for that," Sicklick told the News.

The fines were part of the quarterly enforcement actions issued by the feds between June and September 2010. Facilities have to submit plans of correction to continue to operate.

The Lawrence Nursing Care Center in Far Rockaway, Queens, was slapped with the second-highest fine, $19,532, for several problem areas - including failing to investigate accidents or injuries.

One elderly man had to be hospitalized and undergo surgery for a head injury of "unknown origin," while another resident with Alzheimer's had an abrasion to the forehead, swollen wrist and scratches on the nose. An aide noted the injuries in the chart, but according to inspectors, no one ever investigated them.

In another violation, inspectors cited the shocking case of a man with Alzheimer's who lost 31 pounds from January to April, going from 158 pounds to 127, despite evidence of poor appetite and difficulty swallowing.

The man was eventually hospitalized and had a feeding tube inserted. The man's doctor told health inspectors in June that he "had not been made aware of" his patient's dire situation until May.

"Most residents are extremely happy with the care here as are the families," said administrator Michael Kraus. "The findings bear no resemblance to the actual facility. It's all about paperwork."

Richard Mollet, director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a nonprofit group that monitors nursing homes, said consumers should be aware of problems .

"They should use this information to evaluate a facility and ask staff and management: Why have these problems occurred and what is being done?" he said.

Also cited and fined for questionable care were:

A March 8 inspection found spoiled and uncovered food, including "numerous adult weevils crawling around and inside" plastic bags of macaroni, and other cleanliness issues. In addition, the home was cited for a pattern of failing to provide necessary care. The home had more than double the statewide rate of complaints from residents and families over three years.

  • Keser Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Brooklyn, a 200-bed facility. Fined: $6,500

Inspectors found that the facility put residents in immediate jeopardy for failing to stop widespread unsafe smoking among residents, including in their rooms.

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