Recently, one of Charleston’s nursing homes, Heartland of West Ashley Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, received multiple Statements of Deficiency from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CMS issues a Statement of Deficiency when it finds that a facility’s care or procedures are substandard. CMS fined Heartland of West Ashley $9,750, and they are in the grade range of C to F according to ProPublica.
CMS issued Heartland of West Ashley 11 Statements of Deficiency in 2019, and 20 both in 2017 and in 2016. In 2019, the deficiencies CMS identified largely involved procedures.
For example, CMS requires facilities to notify patients or their personal representatives of the reason a patient was transferred to a hospital or discharged, and those notifications must be in writing and in a language the patient or their personal representative can understand. Heartland of West Ashley failed to follow this procedure in several cases. CMS also found that the full nursing home team didn’t participate as required in care plans for up to a third of the residents, and that in several cases advance directives were not completed as expected.
In past years, Heartland of West Ashley has violated CMS’s standards for treating patients with dignity and respect. One Statement of Deficiency, for example, noted that a patient receiving catheterization was left completely exposed. In other instances, staff made no attempts to provide residents access to activities they clearly preferred, which can impact their activity level and mental state.
The number of Statements of Deficiency Heartland of West Ashley has received are disturbing.
If you or a loved one is injured while a patient at Charleston’s Heartland of West Ashley facility, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney at the Hughey Law Firm to discuss your or your loved one’s rights and remedies under the law—we have successfully litigated cases against that facility, and many others, during our nearly 20 years of focusing on helping hundreds of victims of nursing home abuse and neglect.
What Rights Does a Nursing Home Resident Have?
According to U.S. News & World Report, Heartland of West Ashley is rated lower than the average nursing home. Our prior U.S. News & World Report research has indicated that, of 191 South Carolina nursing homes, only 27 are rated highly for quality and performance. In other words, a large percentage of nursing homes may provide a lower quality of care than older people and their loved ones have a right to expect.
What Does the Law Require of Nursing Homes?
First, South Carolina’s Omnibus Adult Protection Act protects older adults against nursing home abuse, whether it stems from physical abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, or other forms of abuse, such as financial abuse. In other words, abuse of these types is against the law.
Understanding what neglect is can be difficult so some examples are:
- Not attending to medical needs;
- Not meeting the basic, daily needs of the resident, such as nutrition or mobility equipment;
- Not providing adequate assistance with the activities of daily living, such as bathing or laundry; and/or
- Isolating or repeatedly ignoring the resident.
Unfortunately, a nursing home resident’s loved ones do not always see neglect happening, nor do federal investigators. But the signs may be visible in a resident’s physical symptoms or emotional state.
Neglect, for example, can cause accidents, injuries, or infections that lead to hospitalization. A patient with mobility issues may need staff to walk with them. If they don’t receive supervision or care, they can fall, with potentially life-threatening results. A patient who is neglected may become anxious or emotionally withdrawn.
Nursing Facilities: Licensing Requirements
In addition, South Carolina’s Code of Regulations mandates that all nursing homes in the state meet federal Medicare and Medicaid standards. The requirements for compliance include:
- The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control may inspect or investigate licensed facilities by at any time to ensure that they comply with regulations.
- The facility can only provide care, treatment, and services the Department has permitted it to provide, and for which it has the adequate staff and resources.
- Facilities must not exceed the bed capacity the Department has licensed them to accommodate.
- Violations of licensing requirements are identified at Class I, II, or III. Class I violations are those in which the Department determines that there are imminent dangers to facility residents’ health and safety. Class II violations are those which present potentially negative impacts on residents’ health and safety. Class III violations are those that the Department finds are not in the facility’s or its residents’ the best interests.
Although the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued Statements of Deficiency to Heartland of West Ashley for at least three years, it appears that the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has not yet issued the facility any violations.
Sometimes it isn’t clear what nursing home abuse is, especially if your loved one is fearful or their communication is impaired. However, nursing homes have a duty to maintain certain legal standards of care and safety. Abuse is not acceptable. Nursing homes also have a duty to ensure that they are adequately staffed for the number of patients they house, that all shifts have adequate coverage, and that staff are well trained and appropriately supervised.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
If you see signs that your loved one is suffering neglect or abuse in their nursing home, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or financial, what should you do?
First, make your loved one the priority. If you believe they are in danger of more serious and imminent harm, remove them from the facility as soon as possible. Report the incident to the proper authorities. Nursing homes are regulated both by the state and the federal government. A nursing home can lose their license to operate over certain violations.
Second, if you notice issues but do not believe they warrant moving your loved one out of the facility immediately, consider discussing the issues with the nursing home’s administrative and medical staff. Some issues are rectifiable oversights, and your discussion could provide staff with valuable information. Once you have that discussion, keep tabs on the situation. If it improves, your loved one’s life has been bettered. But if it doesn’t, consider moving them to another facility.
Finally, if you suspect your loved one is suffering from neglect or abuse, contact an experienced nursing home abuse law firm like the Hughey Law Firm. We can advise you on the best course of action in your circumstances. We can help you advocate and negotiate for your loved one’s rights to proper treatment, health, and safety—and in cases where a nursing home has violated the law, we often help our clients obtain compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering, and more.
In fact, Nate Hughey of the has not only helped hundreds of survivors of nursing home neglect and abuse recover compensation for their injuries, he and the lawyers at his firm have taught other attorneys how to fight those complicated cases throughout South Carolina.
Please call (843) 881-8644 or contact us online for a free consultation today.