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U.S. Senate report: Georgia nursing home plagued by a sexual assault, wandering resident, odor of urine, untrained staff

Atlanta nursing home abuse and neglect attorneyHere’s a sentence that loved ones of a nursing home resident would rather not hear: “The patient was rescued before the train got there, but it was a very close call.”

The sentence was in a story on AlbanyHerald.com that discussed patterns of serious health and safety violations at nursing homes nationwide, including in Georgia.

The story by the Albany, Georgia news outlet described a female resident who wandered from the Pinehill Nursing Center in the town of Byromville in central Georgia last year. 

She was reported to be delusional and refusing to take some of her prescribed medicine. She climbed out the window of her room and wandered off, spotted by nursing aides 30 minutes later and a mile away on railroad tracks.

Facilities that fail to meet safety standards

Institutions with a history of failing standards landed on the “Special Focus Facility’’ list after evaluations by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Nine other Georgia nursing homes are among facilities that are  “candidates’’ for Special Focus Facility status:

  • East Lake Arbor in Decatur
  • Pleasant View Nursing Center in Metter
  • Westminster Commons in Atlanta
  • Brentwood Health and Rehabilitation in Waynesboro
  • PruittHealth in Blue Ridge
  • Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation
  • LaGrange Health and Rehab
  • Windermere Health and Rehabilitation Center in Augusta
  • Clinch Healthcare Center in Homerville.

These facilities “substantially fail” to meet required care standards and resident protections, according to a U.S. Senate report.

Pinehill Nursing Center is among the 88 nursing homes nationally under the Special Focus Facility program. The female resident allowed to wander away was far from the facility’s only violation cited in a December federal inspection.

The December inspection detailed a sexual assault by a male patient who had severe cognitive impairment against a female patient who was also described as severely cognitively impaired and as nonverbal.

Staffing levels a factor

As Georgia nursing homes are scrutinized for violations, other problems cited in the December inspection of Pinehill included an odor of urine permeating the building and nursing aides saying they lacked patient-care training.

Further, Pinehill Nursing Center was twice placed on “Immediate Jeopardy’’ status in December. That means federal regulators determined residents’ health and safety were at risk of serious harm. Immediate jeopardy constitutes a warning of a potential cutoff of federal reimbursement of funds unless problems are resolved. 

Officials with Pinehill said that its jeopardy status has been lifted.

Pinehill Nursing Center is owned by a private company and managed by Beacon Health Management, which manages 16 other facilities in Georgia.

Tammy Royal, senior vice president for operations at Beacon, said care at Pinehill has improved. Most department managers have been replaced, Pinehill has a new administrator and the facility “is in full compliance’’ with regulations, she said.

An official with the Georgia Health Care Association, a trade group, said that in assessing nursing homes it was important to consider two challenges they face: limited availability of high-quality staff and inadequate Medicaid funding.

The Senate report stated that of the nation’s over 15,700 nursing homes, less than 0.6 percent wind up in the Special Focus Facility program. Relegation to that program means facilities get more inspections and monitoring.

About 400 more nursing homes technically qualify for Special Focus Facility program status because they are identified as having a “persistent record of poor care.” Limited federal resources let these facilities escape the extra scrutiny.

Contact The Law Office of George S. Johnson today for any concerns that you may have about nursing home neglect and abuse.

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