The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sponsors a website called "Nursing Home Compare" that makes public lots of information about nursing homes across the country. The CMS web site unfortunately does not require disclosures of the frequency or circumstances in which nursing homes are involved in litigation or the results of the litigation (i.e. verdicts and settlements). Virginia has a web site that provides public information about payments (i.e. verdicts and settlements) physicians make on claims involving medical errors. The site requires physicians to identify when payments are made, a brief explanation of the claim, and whether the payment is average, lower than average, or higher than average. Why can't Virginia require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to disclose the same information?
The cases on which I have contacted by grieving families are always tragic and have involved horrible pressure ulcers (bed sores, pressure sores, decubitus ulcers), some resulting in infection, gangrene, amputation, and death, falls with severe fractures that require life-altering surgery, medication errors, wandering and elopement, malnutrition and sudden weight loss, dehydration, fires and burns, and patient-to-patient assault. Many of these cases were never investigated by state or federal authorities and would never be the subject of public disclosure by CMS or by others.
The list of nursing homes that I have been required to sue on behalf of abused and neglected patients and their families in Virginia is too lengthy to reproduce here, but lately I've seen a disturbing increase in the number of contacts by families whose loved ones have been neglected in nursing homes owned and operated by the Ruxton Health Care. I've been forced to file lawsuits on behalf of several of those families, and those lawsuits are currently pending. For the benefit of families who are considering nursing homes for their loved ones, Ruxton owns and operates the following facilities in Virginia:
Ruxton Health of Alexandria (Alexandria); Ruxton Health of Winchester (Winchester); Ruxton Health at the Village (Fork Union): Ruxton Health at the Meadows (Goochland); Ruxton Health of Lawrenceville (Lawrenceville); Ruxton Health of Norfolk (norfolk); Ruxton Health and Rehabilitation Center of Westover Hills (Richmond); Ruxton Health of Stratford Hills (Richmond); Ruxton Health of Staunton (Staunton); Ruxton Health of Williamsburg (Williamsburg); and, Ruxton Health of Woodbridge (Woodbridge).
To give you an example of the types of care I've been hearing about lately, at least 28 complaints have been filed against Ruxton Health of Williamsburg in the last couple of years alone, according to a recent article that summarized the results of complaint investigation reports prepared by the state agency that licenses and inspects nursing homes in Virginia. Those complaints included 22 allegations in which the facility was cited for providing deficient care, including patients who were not being fed by staff regularly, patients left lying in their own urine, medications that were not administered on time, pressure ulcers (bed sores, pressure sores, decubitus ulcers), cold food, failure to notify authorities about a possible sexual assault, and allowing a patient to leave without the facility's knowledge and wander away (elope).
In one case that resulted in a complaint report, a diabetic patient experienced a change in her medical condition. The patient's family told Ruxton's staff about the change in her condition, but nothing was done by the nursing home until 10 days later when family visited the facility again to find the patient "extremely ill looking, shaking, had breathing problems, purple feet, mouth was black with sores, reddened face, screaming for help, holding her stomach and soaked with urine." Staff reassured the family member that the patient was not in danger, but her family insisted she be taken to the emergency room. She was admitted to the intensive care unit and died two days later. The hospital informed the family member that the patient died from complications of dehydration and had a blood sugar of 555 when she was hospitalized. Normal blood sugar levels are in the range of 70 to 100 or so. The state health department cited the nursing home for not keeping the patient properly hydrated, poor quality of care, and failing to provide proper notification when there was a significant change in the patient's condition.
In another case, a patient with a feeding tube was hospitalized with dehydration. According to the nursing home's own records, the man may not have been provided as many as 75 tube feedings in a mere three months. The patient was discharged from the Ruxton facility to a hospice home and died shortly thereafter. The health department's report concluded the lack of proper tube feeding decreased "the level of fluids the resident may have received and could have resulted in his dehydration."
The nursing home also became the focus of a police investigation in March 2008 involving the care provided to 84-year-old Lorina Wiggins, who died after being taken to a local hospital two months ago with multiple, infected pressure ulcers (bed sores, pressure sores, decubitus ulcers) on her body.
An October 2006 inspection report for Medicare/Medicaid certification revealed 26 health deficiencies, including problems treating pressure ulcers (bd sores, pressure sores, decubitus ulcers) and problems helping patient with eating, drinking, grooming and hygiene. A January 2008 inspection revealed 13 deficiencies, including problems with infections control and failure to investigate injuries to patients. Ruxton had three times the state and national average for deficiencies.
I've profiled Ruxton facilities during earlier blog posts on my web site. Ruxton Health in Woodbridge wasn't ranked one of the three Virginia nursing homes that were ranked among the 131 worst nursing homes in the country for nothing . . . it takes work to that bad. As I've warned before about Ruxton facilities, patients and families, please exercise extreme caution!_____________________________________________________________________
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.
Posted on Sat, July 19, 2008
by Robert Carter