Readers of this blog know how many times I’ve written previously in this blog about the atrocious conditions that many Massachusetts nursing home residents live in every day. It’s sickening, it’s cruel, it’s a stain on our society, and it’s a moral outrage. Yet it goes on, and on, seemingly unstopped.
Why? The answer lies in a collision of factors, but at the heart of the problem lies nearly one constant: Corporate greed and the never ending quest for profits at the expense of human dignity, exhibited in this industry by hiring incompetent and/or inadequate staff; cutting costs to bone, and reducing quality of care for the most vulnerable of patient populations. Yes, other factors do come into play also, not the least of which is the often abysmal ‘oversight’ by state and federal regulators charged with making sure that nursing homes and nursing facilities adhere to state and federal laws mandating quality patient care standards. Another major factor: The nursing home industry’s very conscious awareness that the regulators and inspectors charged with policing them, such as those employed at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health – Health Care/Nursing Homes Licensure Division – are woefully understaffed and lax in their “enforcement” of regulations that apply to them. Many, many Massachusetts nursing homes know full well that the Massachusetts DPH is a “paper tiger” – that the odds that any state or federal authority figures will “find them out,” or discover their lax care of patients – are extremely low. Understaffing at the DPH, state budget cuts, over-worked inspectors and staffers – all these factors coalesce to create the perfect environment, or “perfect storm,” for many Massachusetts nursing homes to flout laws, rules, regulations, and basic morality in how they run their facilities.
Just how bad can some of these nursing home conditions become? The Boston Globe’s Health & Medical reporter, Kay Lazar, recently ran a special investigative piece entitled “A Pattern of Profit and Subpar Care at Massachusetts Nursing Homes” (March 27 2016.) Before discussing what that particular, most recent story revealed, let me pause here and offer my thanks and appreciation to The Boston Globe, for their ongoing, very effective and aggressive reporting of the issue of substandard care that takes place at too many Massachusetts nursing home. The Globe really has been very diligent on this issue, and for that all Massachusetts residents owe them a debt of thanks. As a veteran Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, I can assure my readers that investigative journalism such as relfected in the Globe’s reporting of this serious issue, is critical to bringing about improvements in nursing home care in this state (as well as nationally.)
Highlighting just how serious this issue is, the Globe’s latest story exposed how many Massachusetts nursing home patients are mistreated and suffer in ways that most people would never imagine:
- At a nursing home in Everett, the Rehabilitation & Nursing Center at Everett, grime, dirt and mold covered the facility’s windows, making it almost impossible for patients to see outside. For some comparison, even jailed prisoners can see outside. A Massachusetts DPH inspector who visited this business in February described the facility as “dehumanizing.” Yet this facility remains in business.
- At the same facility a week earlier, an unattended patient suffering from dementia climbed out a broken window, fracturing an ankle in the process, according to the inspector’s report. Yet this facility remains in business.
- Not far away, at the Medford Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, health and safety violations have been so constant that in 2014, regulators put it on a special list reserved for the nation’s most substandard nursing homes. Yet this facility remains in business.
- The above nursing homes are owned by an out of state, for-profit corporation called Personal Healthcare, a Tarrytown, N.Y., business that also runs Cambridge Rehabilitation & Nursing Center – another Massachusetts nursing home that has been repeatedly cited for operating deficiencies and substandard care and . Company financial reports reveal that nurse staffing at all three locations have been below the state norm.
If you think this is bad enough, it gets worse. I’ll detail in precisely how and why, in my next post in a few days. Check back by Tuesay or Wednesday, April 5 or 6 for Part Two of this Post.