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article imageNew Mexico sues nursing home chain over care and staff

By Karen Graham     Dec 5, 2014 in Health
Santa Fe - On Friday, New Mexico's outgoing Democratic Attorney General Gary King sued one of the nation's largest nursing home chains over inadequate resident care and poor staffing practices. If the suit succeeds, it could be applied to other states as well.
King has targeted eight New Mexico nursing homes runs by Preferred Care Partners Management Group L.P. of Plano, Texas. A privately held company, Preferred Care Partners has operations in about 10 states: Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
"We hope that this action sends a message to nursing homes across the nation that the failure to provide the care that patients need and that homes are paid for will not be tolerated," the state attorney general's office wrote in response to questions from The Associated Press.
The attorney general is alleging that the present company, as well as the previous owner, Cathedral Rock Management L.P. was profiting by skimping on staff "at the expense of the physical well-being of vulnerable nursing home residents."
Preferred Care Management Partners released a statement saying they had not yet seen the complaint. They did say they thought the attorney general was targeting them based on the actions of a previous owner. Preferred Care Management Partners took over all 10 of the New Mexico nursing homes managed by Cathedral Rock Management L.P. in late 2012.
At the time of the takeover, Cathedral Rock had been under scrutiny by the Department of Health and Human Services after a settlement was reached in a case of patient abuse and health care fraud at homes it operated in Missouri.
Preferred Care nursing homes are structured in such a way that a manager oversees a group of private partnerships. Preferred Care's chairman, Thomas Scott was the only named defendant in the lawsuit. According to publicly available Medicare data, Scott is also the only listed individual investor.
Since 2008 Preferred Care has collected $229 million in fees, mostly from the state and federal government. This allegedly covers the over one million days residents cumulatively stayed there. In order to get that money, nursing homes have to comply with federal and state regulations covering adequate patient care.
The way it traditionally works when there are allegations of lapses in care, such as avoidable deaths, hygiene issues, or injuries and falls, is to find a whistle-blower. This person is used to help show the problems in the nursing home stem from a shortage in staff members.
The New Mexico case involves using confidential witnesses from the nursing home staffs. These witnesses allege that managers knew the nurse's aides were too overwhelmed they were unable to change diapers or bathe and even feed those patients who were incapacitated. The complaint says this left the residents “deprived of food and water.”
New Mexico used a novel way to work out the lawsuit. They relied on an Industrial simulation of how long it takes to complete a particular task. For example, it should take 3.5 minutes to reposition someone who is bedridden.
By calculating the total number of minutes required to care for a patient, and then comparing the results to the actual number of hours worked, the state found discrepancies. The differences in the total number of hours worked were as much as 50 percent different from what was required to give adequate care. New Mexico's case has been helped because records show the nursing homes boosted the number of staff present when inspectors were present.
More about New mexico, Nursing homes, inafequate resident care, poor staffing, Preferred Care Management Partners
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