Justice Delayed…

Posted on September 30, 2012 by

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I followed a Medicare fraud case this year where a nursing home owner and his wife were convicted of using Medicare and Medicaid funds for personal use while their nursing home residents suffered abusive conditions.  The couple ran two nursing homes in Atlanta, Georgia from 2004-2007.

As the story unfolded, I questioned what took so long to trap the criminals and get the residents into a healthier environment.  According to the reports, there were no shortages of complaints from all sides – residents, families, and even staff members, who were at one point purchasing food with their own money to feed residents.  The employees were also cheated out of paychecks and benefits, and I can only imagine their internal struggle with wanting to leave but not wanting to abandon the residents.  Apparently, roofs were so leaky that employees had to figure out how to catch the rainwater, fiberglass ceiling tiles became so saturated that they actually fell on residents’ beds, and due to a broken heating and air system, windows were opened for ventilation, only to allow insects and rodents to enter the building.  It seems safe to assume that the facilities did not reach these “appalling conditions” overnight.  How could it get to this point?

The Georgia Department of Human Resources was involved as a result of the numerous complaints and stated that they gave the nursing home owners and administration “many opportunities to correct deficiencies”.  Perhaps the problem was that they were given “many opportunities” – too many.

If family members have to make the difficult decision to place their loved one in a nursing home for end-of-life care, they deserve swift accountability when the facility falls short in providing even the most basic requirements for healthy living – respect, food, and a sanitary environment.  There is a process when government agencies investigate nursing home complaints or find deficiencies, but human dignity is one area where there should be no second or third chances.  Creating a higher standard could deter people like this nursing home owner from taking advantage of the dependent elderly and the healthcare system they rely on.

Although the people responsible for these crimes were eventually incarcerated, I wonder if the residents, their families, and the employees feel on some level that justice was denied.

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