June 19, 2014

State sues Arlington nursing home, alleging neglect of patients

The Texas attorney general’s office says Oakwood Nursing and Rehabilitation violated minimum care standards and health and safety codes for treating patients with bed sores.

The state is suing Oakwood Nursing and Rehabilitation in Arlington over allegations that patients with pressure sores did not receive proper treatment, including one man who died of an infection after he was hospitalized.

The suit against Oakwood was filed earlier this month in Tarrant County court by the Texas attorney general’s office on behalf of the Department of Aging and Disability Services, the agency that regulates and licenses nursing facilities. The department conducted investigations in March and April of 2013 after receiving complaints about treatment of patients with pressure sores.

The suit is seeking up to $20,000 per violation, alleging that Oakwood violated minimum care standards, and health and safety codes for treating patients with pressure sores, commonly known as bed sores, and for failing to maintain proper medical records.

The state is also seeking permanent injunctions against the company to prohibit operating nursing facilities in violation of licensing standards and from failing to properly monitor patients with pressure sores.

An employee who answered the phone at Oakwood referred calls to the corporate office of Daybreak Venture, which owns Oakwood and other nursing facilities throughout Texas.

Sherri Livingston, a spokeswoman for the company, did not return phone calls from the Star-Telegram seeking comment.

Multiple investigations

Melissa Gale, a spokeswoman for the Department of Aging and Disability Services, said that on March 25 and April 12 in 2013 the agency investigated complaints that patients who had pressure sores were not receiving proper treatment.

According to court documents, three patients developed pressure sores. In November of 2012, a man who had spinal bifida and was paraplegic went home for a weekend visit with his family. A relative noticed a “golf ball-sized ulcer” in his scrotum area.

The family member cleaned the wound, but when the 31-year-old man was taken back to the nursing home, the family requested that he see a wound care specialist immediately. The staff said the physician was not available until two days later, so the family took the man to a hospital.

The man developed an infection which spread to his lungs, urine and blood. According to court documents, he died after developing the infection.

The lawsuit also described how investigators found a 92-year-old woman crying in her room and soaked in urine.

The woman also had a serious pressure sore and needed to be treated regularly to keep the area dry so that the sore would heal, documents stated.

The lawsuit stated that Oakwood violated licensing requirements by failing to monitor residents for pressure sores, failing to call physicians in a timely manner and not implementing written policies to prevent neglect.

Recommended penalties

Gale said the agency recommended penalties including termination of Medicare and Medicaid certification, but the state’s recommendation was rescinded by the federal government.

Other recommendations included denial of payments for new Medicare and Medicaid admissions, and the federal government imposed that penalty from May 11 through June 30 of 2013. Oakwood was also ordered to pay a $156,835 penalty.

Oakwood has also applied to renew its license, which expires on Aug. 1 of this year.

This is the second lawsuit to be filed by the attorney general in recent weeks against assisted living or nursing facilities.

The state is also suing Westchester Plaza, an assisted-living facility in Fort Worth, along with its management company, alleging that false information was provided to the state consumer protection division and that management ignored a fire marshal’s tag stating that the fire safety pumps were broken.

The suit also accuses Westchester Plaza management of violating the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and seeks civil penalties of up to $1 million.

Westchester Plaza is still open, but its license is in limbo, as officials recommended that it should not be renewed in October 2012 because of the fire safety violations and placing residents in “immediate” danger.

A third facility, Avalon’s The Willows Assisted Living Community in Fort Worth, also has been investigated for failing to immediately call 911 after a resident complained she was having a heart attack and later became unresponsive.

The state began investigating the facility after the death of 90-year-old Mary Madeline Edholm. A MedStar paramedic told police that Edholm was already showing signs of lividity — the pooling of blood in a body after death — when paramedics arrived on the scene March 25.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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