LAKE PLACID - A local nursing home was fined more than $20,000 earlier this year for failing to protect its residents from potential abuse, neglect and mistreatment, and failing to promptly investigate allegations of abuse at the facility.
The fine imposed on Adirondack Medical Center-Uihlein, now called Uihlein Living Center, was issued in June by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Joe Riccio, a spokesman for Adirondack Health, which runs the nursing home, told the Enterprise on Wednesday that the fine has been paid and a corrective action plan was initiated.
"Staff reacted swiftly and appropriately, and all those concerns were fully and completely addressed," Riccio said.
The Enterprise learned of the civil penalty from a news release distributed in late November by the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a nonprofit nursing home watchdog group. Under the federal Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper filed a request with the the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to get more background information on the case.
The fine stems from a March 22 survey of the nursing home, which it says it requested, by Medicare inspectors from the state Department of Health. The review focused on allegations of abuse involving two residents.
Based on a series of interviews, inspectors determined that a licensed practical nurse, who was not identified in the report, refused to provide tracheostomy care on several occasions in the early morning hours of Feb. 27 to an unnamed male resident of the nursing home. Namely, she refused to suction the resident, which would have allowed him to breathe easier, and refused to let him call his mother, the report says. The resident told the Health Department inspectors he was "scared and did not feel safe in the care" of the LPN. He ultimately used Facebook to ask a friend to contact his mother, who reported what happened to the nursing supervisor on duty that night.
The report says the nursing supervisor ultimately had to suction the resident herself but did not remove the LPN from duty because she was concerned about not having enough staff to care for other residents. Inspectors also cited the supervisor for failing to document what happened and failing to immediately report the situation to the nursing home's administrator or nursing director.
Additionally, the report says the nursing home failed to properly investigate the same resident's complaint that a certified nursing assistant removed his Passy-Muir valve, (a speaking valve for use with a tracheostomy tube), preventing him from speaking. Inspectors also cited the facility for failing to thoroughly investigate "injuries of unknown origin" to a different resident, including facial lacerations and bruises.
Uihlein Living Center Administrator Michele Byno submitted a plan of correction that's included with the report. It says the LPN was not allowed to work at the facility following the Feb. 27 incident and was later fired "upon finding reasonable cause that abuse may have occurred." The nursing supervisor on duty that night was "re-educated" about her responsibilities in dealing with and reporting situations of alleged abuse. The nursing assistant was similarly retrained as to her duties in providing care to residents with tracheostomies.
Nursing home administrators also said they investigated the "injuries of unknown origin" the second resident suffered and found no evidence of abuse. The injuries were consistent with a fall, the nursing home said.
In addition to taking these steps, the correction plan says all staff of the nursing home were re-educated on the facility's abuse prevention policies and procedures. Administrators also pledged to begin investigations immediately following any allegations of abuse.
Despite the corrective action taken by the nursing home, CMS fined the facility $20,150 for "noncompliance that constituted immediate jeopardy to resident health and/or safety."
Riccio noted that the nursing home initiated the review process with the Department of Health by self-reporting the incident.
"The employee was terminated almost immediately," he said. "We've worked extremely close with the Department of Health. We've provided additional training to staff. Our highest priority continues to be to protect the health and well-being of the people in our care."