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Police Officer Discovered Westside Health Care Center Failed Its Residents

By KJ Mullins     Aug 23, 2008 in Health
Last March Cincinnati police Officer Aaron Layton made a disgusting discovery as he searched Westside Health Care Center room by room for a suspect. The nursing home was in such disarray that Layton returned 16 days later armed with a search warrant.
Layton was joined by police and state inspectors who witnessed two nursing homes where residents lived in a state of filth.
Layton witnessed conditions that he described as worse than a crack house as he went from room to room last March searching for a suspect. Mattresses were soiled, vomit lay in the hallways, roaches and flys had free rein in a building that had their fire doors tied shut.
Investigators discovered when they raided the facility on March 13 that nurses' aides were giving patients medicine from unlabeled bottles.
What makes the discoveries found in the raid even more shocking is that city and state workers had just inspected Westside and its companion residential care facility, the Terrace at Westside. While they did document problems found during their inspection they did not list anything to the scale of filth that the police raid found.
The raid has raised questions on if the state inspectors have been doing their jobs well enough to protect residents that are in no way able to protect themselves.
Since 2003 the inspectors allowed for Westside and the Terrance to operate after being promised that problems would be resolved. Year after year those same problems were listed on inspection reports.
The month after the raid of the two facilities state health inspectors documented almost 200 pages of violations.
Those violations are at two centers that receive more than $3.2 million a year from Medicaid and other social service programs. For the 60 clients that have been placed there these violations could mean that they will soon be homeless. On Wednesday this week state health officials have told the residents that they need to find a new place to live.
Those residents are composed of society's outcasts. Most of the clients living at the facilities known as "The Hill" are mentally ill and poor. They do not have the funds to be relocated in a nicer nursing home. Many of their families, who are ill equipped to handle the challenges they face will have to take them in. Those are the lucky ones. There will likely be some residents that have no where else to go. They may be sleeping on the street.
Medicaid pays nursing homes about $150 a day per resident. Other programs pay $877 a month per person in the assisted living programs like those at the Terrace.
Owner Abe Fischer faces a misdemeanor charge of violating the city's building and fire codes.
Fischer says that he used that money to pay his 75 employees and his own salary of $129,000 last year. He claims the rest went into operating and making improvements to the centers. The Fischer family has run as many as six nursing homes over the years. The Terrance and Westside are the last two that have not been sold.
Fischer claims that since the raid he has spent $300,000 on repairs. He claims that closing the centers are being closed because state and advocacy groups are trying to run him out of business.
"It was like somebody said, 'You're going down, and there's nothing you can do about it,'" Fischer said.
The Hills have been around for the last three decades. They are known in Cincinnati as the homes of last resort. They have catered to mentally ill poor people. The original idea was that the centers would take better care of residents than the old state hospitals, most of those were emptied out during the 1970's and 1980's.
While Fischer may claim his center is not as bad as the inspectors say the raid showed a much different story.
On March 13 at the Terrance there were 13 torn and soiled mattresses, 20 showers did not have safety bars, two bathrooms had no hot water, seven rooms had broken toilets and toilet paper was lacking from many of the rooms.
Shower curtains were absent from all showers except for one that was torn and dirty.
The cafeteria had no special meals for those who were diabetic. Medicines were handled in an unreliable manner.
At Westside the raid uncovered minute violations like no ketchup in the dining room to hazards that were life threatening. Those included an unsanitary dishwasher, unsafe medication storage and residents smoking near an oxygen tank.
On the day of the raid Westside had run out of diapers. One man missed his doctor's appointment because he was soiled and couldn't leave the center without a fresh diaper. Residents were found in soiled clothes and linens.
The staff at Westside were not trained to deal with mental illness even though every resident has some degree of mental condition.
"This was a forgotten population," said Lin Laing, executive director of the Center for Independent Living Options. "A lot of them don't even have family members, or if they do, they have family members that won't have anything to do with them.
"But they are still human beings."
These forgotten ill now have the task of finding a new place to reside. Will the state take care of them if they can't do so on their own?
The state allowed for them to live in filth to begin with.
More about Cincinnati, Westside health center, Mentally ill