Nursing homes have been under increasing scrutiny over the last few years. With several high-profile cases of sexual abuse and deadly neglect making prominent news headlines, nursing home facilities still often remain under the radar for government investigations.
One of the biggest problems for nursing homes is their refusal to appropriately report misconduct by staff. According to a recent government audit, the rate at which they fail to report all manner of abuse is “alarming.” Federal and Pennsylvania state law requires nursing homes to report abuse and serious accidents.
Another recent investigation, this one by Philadelphia´s Action News, has revealed some of the most gruesome aspects of nursing home abuse and neglect. The story has called media attention to numerous cases of negligence in nursing homes’ investigations into systematic abuse and neglect.
In January of 2016, Timothy Kilby was allegedly pushed and kicked at the Oxford Health Center nursing home resulting in serious injuries, including a broken neck. But the facility did not file the mandatory report to the state´s Department of Health.
While the nursing home´s representatives remained silent, Mr. Kilby related the cause of his injuries to the paramedics who were called to offer emergency assistance. This triggered a police investigation. The facility tried to downplay the incident, attributing Kilby´s injuries to an “unwitnessed fall.”
This is the norm rather than the exception when nursing home residents are physically abused by either other residents or staff. The Action News investigation revealed that about half of Pennsylvania´s nursing homes routinely fail to report or investigate these and other similar incidents.
The reporters found one particular nursing home that stands out among the state´s repeat offenders, namely, Suburban Woods Health and Rehabilitation in East Norriton.
During 2016 and 2017, the number of violations that occurred at the facility is shocking. Suburban Woods failed to report sexual assaults, including rape by a staff member, on two separate occasions in 2016. The facility was also investigated in connection with its habit of not performing criminal background checks before hiring new staff.
According to a spokesperson for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, "It's not in the nursing homes interest to properly report issues and enforce regulations because it affects their bottom line."
But the Department of Health is also responsible. According to a review of 2012-2014 nursing home inspection reports, the government only investigated one out of every ten complaints filed against nursing homes.
It is easy to conclude that there is a gap between actual incidents and reporting when one observes that over a period of three years, there was not a single thoroughly investigated and substantiated complaint involving deliberate physical harm or sexual abuse.
Although the facilities claim to monitor the reporting and investigation process closely, there are just too many failures to believe that they are taking the matter seriously.
The statistics are even more depressing when one factors in that many serious cases of abuse are never reported. The bottom line... many incidents don’t get reported and those that do are often overlooked or not substantiated.
In this scenario, victims like Mr. Kilby have only one course of action if they want to get to the bottom of what happened within a nursing homes’ walls, and that is to file a lawsuit. With systematic cover-ups, understaffing and hundreds of serious cases being dismissed every year, filing a complaint prepared by an experienced Pennsylvania nursing home abuse attorney is the likely way to lead to holding the culprits accountable and maximizing compensation to provide the costly care victims often require.
Why seek private legal help? The Pennsylvania Department of Health simply doesn’t have the staff to investigate and substantiate every nursing home patient abuse claim. Investigating these cases is difficult. It is often a “he said, she said” and in many cases, the patient has cognitive disabilities. Properly investigating these cases can involve reviewing hundreds of hours of security footage and interviewing other staff and patients. And it must be done quickly to be most effective.
How Bad is Pennsylvania Nursing Home Abuse Problem?
A review of the worst rated nursing homes in the United States shows that 19 are in the metropolitan Philadelphia area. That list contains the Suburban Woods facility noted above. (Our list was compiled from 2015 data indicating the lowest one star rating from the Medicare site. One star is “much below average.” Press reports indicate that Suburban Woods was put in receivership last month.)
In alphabetical order, the 19 worst facilities in metro Philadelphia are:
- Avista Healthcare
- Broomall Rehabilitation and Nursing Center
- Cheltenham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
- Chestnut Hill Lodge Health and Rehabilitation Center
- Cooper River West
- Elkins Crest Health and Rehabilitation Center
- Fair Acres Geriatric Center
- Glendale Uptown Home
- Laurel Square Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center
- Majestic Center for Rehabilitation and Sub-Acute Care
- Majestic Oaks Rehabilitation and Nursing Center
- Maplewood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
- Meadowview Rehabilitation and Nursing Center
- Mount Laurel Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare
Suburban Woods Health and Rehabilitation Center
Towne Manor East
Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley
Wesley Enhanced Living Main Line
- This facility has also been identified as a “Special Focus Facility,” meaning it has a history of “serious quality issues.”
Several of the worst offenders are now in receivership or have new owners. Unfortunately, without new staff, better training and more money, things aren’t likely to improve much.
Before moving in or placing a loved one in a skilled nursing facility, check the government’s rating as well as consumers sites too. Any facility with one or two stars is a red flag. Maybe there is an explanation, but it pays to ask lots of questions.
Victim of Nursing Home Abuse or Sexual Assault?
If you or a family member are the victim of nursing home abuse or a sexual assault in a Pennsylvania nursing home, visit our Pennsylvania Elder Abuse information page. Looking for more general information? Visit our nursing home abuse and neglect page.
Think you may have a case? We are happy to listen and see if we can help. In an emergency, call 911 and report the incident to police and then call us. The quicker you call, the more effective we can be in finding witnesses and making sure video surveillance evidence is preserved. For more information, contact us ONLINE, by email [hidden email] or toll free at 833.201.1555. All inquiries are kept confidential and there is never a fee for a consultation. If we or one of our partners takes your case, there are generally no fees or costs unless we win your case and recover money for you.