In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of the disturbing trend of out-of-state corporations buying up smaller and struggling Massachusetts nursing homes – with extremely disturbing - not to mention unconscionable - results. One particularly egregious example of this new practice is found with a New Jersey and Florida company called Synergy Health Centers. They’ve bought up at least ten Massachusetts nursing facilities – almost all experiencing drastic decreases in patient care from the moment Synergy Health took over.
Some examples that state regulators have discovered:
• Elderly left to soak in their own urine and feces (New England Health Center, Sunderland Massachusetts.)
• Sudden spikes in lax infection control – a baseline requirement to any medical facility (Braemoor Health Center in Brockton.)
• Patients developing pressure sores because they weren’t turned or repositioned in bed – and then being neglected for weeks.
• Dishes and eating utensils found floating in dirty water.
• Insufficient staffing of nurses to care for patients in facilities.
Should anyone really be surprised at this unconscionable result? What’s going on with Synergy just reflects the increasing presence of corporate chains in the nursing home business – and the escalating worries of nursing home patient watchdogs. While some of these chains aren’t as bad as most, the fact remains that most are bad – very bad. As a Dedham Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, I've seen this happen so many times it turns my stomach. Their M.O (method of operation).: Buy financially struggling nursing homes at fire sale prices. Slashing staff wages to the bone. Cut quality of products and services provided. And when cited for these unconscionable actions? Deny it. Just as Synergy’s founders have done, dismissing all of the above violations, and more, as “growing pains.” Some patients’ relatives are even afraid to speak to the media, out of fear that their loved ones will suffer even more neglect, as retaliation. The Boston Globe published a story on May 5 2015 on Synergy and its nursing home patient neglect. Relatives of three such residents refused to be quoted by a reporter out of fear that their family members’ “care” would coincidentally decline.
Since my previous post on this subject,The Boston Globe has published another, follow-up story on this disturbing issue: Massachusetts health regulators confirmed last week that officials still have no firm time frame for increasing the investigation of Massachusetts nursing home sales and closings. This despite the fact that the Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation 10 months ago, requiring stricter nursing home scrutiny. Worse, this inaction by the state is taking place in the wake of the rapid expansion of Massachusetts nursing home purchases by Synergy Health, and the corresponding decrease in quality of care at those nursing homes.
The admission came as a member of a board that sets state health policy urged regulators to move more swiftly, especially with the increased pace of for-profit companies buying up family-owned nursing homes. Dr. Alan Woodward, a member of the Massachusetts Public Health Council, urged much faster action by the state, commenting, “We have seen some sudden closures, and more of the for-profits coming in, and allegations about their quality of care.” State Senator Harriette Chandler, the Senate majority leader who championed the law passed last year requiring greater scrutiny of Massachusetts nursing home purchases, has stated that she is troubled the new is being effectively ignored. “There are lives that are being jeopardized as a result of not having these regulations,” Chandler said. “That’s why we [passed] the law, so nursing homes would not be bought and sold literally in the dark of night, and nobody would have a chance to comment.”
Had state officials implemented this important law, three of the most recent Synergy Health nursing home acquisitions — in Brockton, Revere, and Wilmington — would have undergone investigation and review before the deals were completed. Roughly 40,000 residents live in Massachusetts’ 420 nursing homes. Their well-being and safety is at risk.
Will anything be done about this shameful problem?
Answer: Not unless the public speaks up and demands that firm action be taken, and now. That means you, and me, and anyone who has ever had a loved one or friend in a nursing home. Call your state representative and state senator: Ph.: (617) 722-2000 – and tell them that you want immediate steps to be taken to make Massachusetts nursing home residents safer, by investigating conditions within these facilities. If you don't know who your state representative or state senator is, click here.
No excuses - Act. Do something positive. In the event you think this isn’t really relevant to you, consider this: You yourself may end up in one of these facilities one day: Even if you aren’t “getting up there” in age, you could be injured or become chronically ill, and find yourself in a place like these, long before you ever thought you might.