Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer

Is your loved one a resident of Heartland Health and Rehabilitation Care Center in Hanahan, South Carolina? If so, there many issues with the facility of which you should be aware. According to ProPublica, Heartland’s center in Hanahan has been subject to numerous violations and penalties in the past three years, resulting in fines of more than $26,000 and one Medicare payment suspension totaling more than $230,000.

The Hughey Law Firm has successfully pursued claims against this facility.

If you have concerns about the care that your loved one is receiving at this facility, contact an attorney experienced in nursing home abuse and neglect at the Hughey Law Firm to learn more about your legal options for holding the facility accountable.

About the Facility

Heartland Health and Rehabilitation Care Center, located at 1800 Eagle Landing Boulevard, Hanahan, South Carolina, is a 135-bed facility licensed to accept Medicare and Medicaid residents. The facility has an overall rating of one star, meaning it is rated well below the average for similar facilities. The facility has a one-star rating for health and fire safety inspections, with many citations listed below.

Staffing is also considered below average, with less time spent per resident with licensed health providers, including LPN/LVNs and nurse’s aides, than the state or national average. Residents do, however, get more time with a physical therapist and registered nurses than is average for the state or the nation. Additionally, the quality of care for the residents was rated average to above average.

Nursing Home Safety During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spreads through the United States, it has become clear that people in nursing homes are particularly at risk for serious complications. Not only are residents in nursing homes living in close proximity to one another, but many residents are immuno-comprised, over 60, or have other characteristics that make them more likely to become seriously ill if they contract the disease. Thousands of nursing home residents have already died—including 70 at just one nursing home.

The Heartland Health and Rehabilitation Care Center has racked up 57 coronavirus cases alone.

The Post and Courier interviewed our firm’s founder, Nathan Hughey, about the cluster of COVID-19 cases at the Heartland Health and Rehabilitation Care Center, and he discussed its history of what the paper called “shoddy care.” The paper also interviewed one of the Hughey Law Firm’s clients, Kenneth Jones, who told the Post and Courier how the facility kept residents in the dark about the virus was spreading, and that “Nurses have attended to him without wearing masks.”

Jones is one of the 57 residents at the Heartland Health and Rehabilitation Care Center who tested positive for COVID-19.

The Spread of Coronavirus in Nursing Homes

While much remains unknown about the coronavirus, scientists have learned a significant amount about how the virus spreads. Currently, experts believe that coronavirus mainly spreads through respiratory droplets that infected people project into their environment when they cough or sneeze. When another person inhales these droplets while they are suspended in the air or touches a surface with the virus present and then touches their nose, mouth, or eyes, it can result in infection.

In addition, the virus could spread through aerosol transmission, which means that even talking to someone that has COVID-19 can put you at risk of contracting the disease. This means that communications with staff members, doctors, other residents, or anyone else in the nursing home community might result in transmission.

Nursing Home Safety During the Coronavirus

Nursing homes provide care and shelter to some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and they owe their residents a duty to keep their facilities safe from an unreasonable risk of infection. When they fail to live up to this duty, people who contract COVID-19 or are otherwise injured as a result of their negligence may recover compensation for the losses they sustained.

Furthermore, if nursing home negligence results in a fatal disease or injury to residents, their loved ones may recover compensation by filing a wrongful death claim against the facility.

Nursing Homes have a Duty to Mitigate Transmission of Communicable Diseases

During this time, nursing homes must take steps to reduce the risk that the coronavirus and other diseases pose to their residents. This means they should develop and implement procedures regarding the disinfection of rooms and surfaces, social distancing, diagnosing ill residents, and isolation of sick patients, among other things.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued guidance regarding nursing homes and coronavirus on March 13, 2020.

Some things they recommend that nursing homes do include:

  • Restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential healthcare personnel
  • Cancel all group activities and communal dining
  • Actively screen residents and staff for respiratory symptoms and fever
  • Remind residents to engage in social distances and hand washing
  • Screen staff for fever and respiratory symptoms at the beginning of their shifts
  • Provide visitors with instructions regarding hand washing, PPE, hand hygiene, and limiting the number of surfaces touched
  • Identify staff that work at multiple facilities and conduct appropriate screening
  • Review and revise procedures for interacting with vendors and receiving supplies

Keep in mind that nursing homes have a duty to prevent disease transmission as much as possible even when we are not in the middle of a pandemic. Outbreaks of illnesses like Legionnaires’ Disease, respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, norovirus, and influenza could all prove legally actionable.

What Should You Do if You Believe Your Loved One Has Contracted Coronavirus in a Nursing Home?

If you think that your loved one has contracted coronavirus—or any disease—due to nursing home negligence, talk to an attorney as soon as you can. If you can show that the nursing home did not follow the proper procedures to limit the chances of disease transmission, you or your loved one could recover compensation.

Heartland Health and Rehabilitation Care Center Inspection Reports

2016 Inspection

No data is provided with the 2016 inspection of this facility, but nine deficiencies were reported. The deficiencies were categorized as the type that caused no actual harm to residents, though there was a potential of harm that did not pose immediate jeopardy. The inspection noted that some of the deficiencies indicated a developing pattern.

2017 Inspection (12 Failures)

The January 2017 inspection report uncovered 12 deficiencies at the facility and resulted in a $20,106 fine. The deficiencies noted in the report include:

  1. Failure to keep each resident’s personal and medical records private and confidential: Inspectors observed personal medical information of 101 residents posted at eye-level in a room that was marked for resident and family use. A staff member explained that the clinical team used the forms, and although the forms were stored in a locked area overnight, the door to the room was left unlocked during daytime hours. None of the residents provided consent for the disclosure of their confidential information.
  2. Failure to resolve each resident’s complaints quickly: The facility was cited for concerns that one resident had indicated that she did not want certain nurse’s aides working with her, but the facility failed to follow up on these complaints for two months.
  3. Failure to provide care for residents in a way that keeps or builds each resident’s dignity and respect of individuality: Some of the failures noted in the inspection included failing to ensure personal grooming relating to chin hair removal for a female resident who required help with grooming, yet was observed with hair on her upper lip and chin that measured several inches in length; failing to ensure that residents were warned before being moved or fed; and failing to ensure that residents sitting at the same table in the dining hall were given their meals at the same time.
  4. Failure to provide housekeeping and maintenance services.
  5. Failure to provide necessary care and services to maintain the highest well-being of each resident: Inspectors discovered that the skin conditions of four residents were not appropriately monitored or treated, resulting in one resident being transported to the hospital for treatment. Medical records revealed a lack of monitoring of injuries, as well as a failure to provide medication for one resident unless she asked for it. There were additional reports of residents requesting pain medication that was not provided, not recorded in the resident’s file, or not provided promptly.
  6. Failure to ensure that each resident’s drug regimen is free of unnecessary drugs or that each resident’s drug/medication is managed and monitored to achieve the highest well-being.
  7. Failure to offer other nutritional food to each resident who will not eat the food served: Situations were observed where residents who did not like or were not able to eat the food that was served were taken from the dining hall without having had a meal. Staff did not assist or encourage residents to eat.
  8. Failure to serve, cook, and serve food in a safe and clean way: Inspectors observed food serving areas not being properly sanitized; staff failing to wash their hands; old food debris floating in the steam table; a soiled alcohol swab was dropped into the food, and the staff removed the swab and attempted to serve the contaminated food to residents; and food was not heated to a proper and safe temperature before being served.
  9. Failure to safely provide drugs and other similar products available and needed every day and in emergencies: Inspectors found inadequate supplies of pain and other medications.
  10. Failure to have a pharmacist inspect each resident’s medication and report irregularities to the attending doctor: Five residents were found to have been given unnecessary medications.
  11. Failure to have a program that investigates, controls, and keeps infection from spreading: A resident was discovered to have pressure sores, and a staff member treated her without properly gloving.
  12. Failure to keep all essential equipment working properly: The dishwasher used at the facility was not properly washing or sanitizing dishes at the manufacturer’s listed temperature.

There were additional deficiencies found in August 2017, with no data available. These deficiencies resulted in a $6,826 fine.

2018 Inspection (32 Failures)

In 2018, the facility’s annual inspection revealed 32 deficiencies and resulted in a suspension of one Medicare payment. The deficiencies were as follows:

  1. Failure to honor a resident’s right to a dignified existence, self-determination, communication, and to exercise his or her rights: Residents were observed having to wait a long time—30 minutes to 3 hours—to be assisted to the toilet, resulting in incontinence. Some also had to wait long periods before staff members cleaned up the residents after incontinence. Additionally, residents were observed partially undressed in public areas.
  2. Failure to honor a resident’s right to self-determination through the support of the resident’s choosing: Residents complained that the staff did not honor their choice to smoke and did not allow them the established smoking times listed in the relevant policy.
  3. Failure to immediately tell the resident, the resident’s doctor, and a family member of situations (injury/decline/room, etc.) that affect the resident.
  4. Failure to give residents notice of Medicaid/Medicare coverage and potential liability for services not covered.
  5. Failure to honor a resident’s right to a safe, clean, comfortable, and homelike environment, including but not limited to receiving treatment and supports for daily living safely: Conditions observed throughout the facility included stains on walls, dust build-up, and unmade beds.
  6. Failure to honor the resident’s right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal, and the facility must establish a grievance policy and make prompt efforts to resolve grievances: At a meeting, residents stated that they did not know how to file grievances.
  7. Failure to protect each resident from all types of abuse, such as physical, mental, sexual abuse, physical punishment, and neglect by anybody: It was revealed that residents complained about staff that was not nice to them or staff members who were rough when treating wounds or attending to the needs of residents, including one resident who was bruised on the arm by a CNA. The administrator was made aware of the incident but failed to report it to the state agency.
  8. Failure to ensure that each resident is free from the use of physical restraints, unless needed for medical treatment: A resident was observed being restrained through the use of a concave mattress. The administrator stated that the mattress was not a restraint, but rather fall prevention.
  9. Failure to not hire anyone with a finding of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or theft: A study of 52 files for temporary CNAs found that there were missed background checks, a lack of orientation or training, and no verification of certification.
  10. Failure to develop and implement policies and procedures to prevent abuse, neglect, and theft.
  11. Failure to timely report suspected abuse, neglect, or theft and to report the results of the investigation to proper authorities.
  12. Failure to respond appropriately to all alleged violations.
  13. Failure to provide timely notification to the resident, and if applicable, to the resident representative and ombudsman, before transfer or discharge, including appeal rights.
  14. Failure to notify the resident or the resident’s representative in writing how long the nursing home will hold the resident’s bed in cases of transfer to a hospital or therapeutic leave.
  15. Failure to assess the resident when there is a significant change in condition.
  16. Failure to create and put into place a plan for meeting the resident’s most immediate needs within 48 hours of being admitted.
  17. Failure to develop a complete care plan within seven days of the comprehensive assessment, prepared, reviewed, and revised by a team of health professionals.
  18. Failure to provide care and assistance to perform activities of daily living for any resident who is unable to do so.
  19. Failure to ensure that a nursing home area is free from accident hazards and provides adequate supervision to prevent accidents.
  20. Failure to provide appropriate care for residents who are continent or incontinent of bowel/bladder, appropriate catheter care, and appropriate care to prevent urinary tract infections.
  21. Failure to provide safe, appropriate pain management for a resident who requires such services.
  22. Failure to provide enough nursing staff every day to meet the needs of every resident and have a licensed nurse in charge of each shift.
  23. Failure to provide the appropriate treatment and services to a resident who displays or is diagnosed with a mental disorder or psychosocial adjustment difficulty, or who has a history of trauma and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  24. Failure to provide pharmaceutical services to meet the needs of each resident and employ or obtain the services of a licensed pharmacist.
  25. Failure to ensure that a licensed pharmacist performs a monthly drug regimen review, including the medical chart, following irregularity reporting guidelines in developed policies and procedures.
  26. Failure to ensure that drugs and biologicals used in the facility are labeled in accordance with currently accepted professional principles; and all drugs and biologicals must be stored in locked compartments, with separately locked compartments for controlled drugs.
  27. Failure to provide timely, quality laboratory services/tests to meet the needs of residents.
  28. Failure to procure food from sources approved or considered satisfactory and store, prepare, distribute, and serve food in accordance with professional standards: Expired food with a resident’s name on it was discovered in the nourishment refrigerator.
  29. Failure to safeguard resident-identifiable information and/or maintain medical records on each resident that are in accordance with accepted professional standards.
  30. Failure to provide and implement an infection prevention and control program.
  31. Failure to develop and implement policies and procedures for flu and pneumonia vaccinations.
  32. Failure to make sure there is a pest control program to prevent/deal with mice, insects, or other pests: Signs of insect infestations were observed at the facility as well as the presence of German cockroaches.

2019 Inspection (6 Failures)

In June 2019, the facility underwent its annual inspection, with six deficiencies found. Those deficiencies include:

  1. Failure to give residents notice of Medicaid/Medicare coverage and potential liability for services not covered.
  2. Failure to provide timely notification to the resident, and if applicable to the resident’s representative and ombudsman, before transfer or discharge, including appeal rights.
  3. Failure to notify the resident or the resident’s representative in writing how long the nursing home will hold the resident’s bed in cases of transfer to a hospital or therapeutic leave.
  4. Failure to post nurse staffing information every day.
  5. Failure to implement gradual dose reductions (GDR) and non-pharmacological interventions, unless contraindicated, before initiating or instead of continuing psychotropic medication; and PRN orders for psychotropic medications are only used when the medication is necessary and PRN use is limited.
  6. Failure to provide timely, quality laboratory services/tests to meet the needs of residents.

Call Hughey Law’s Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Attorneys Today

If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect in Heartland Health and Rehabilitation Care Center in Hanahan, or anywhere else in South Carolina, contact us for a consultation and case review.

You can write to us here or call us at (843) 881-8644.

Hughey Law Firm LLC
171 Church Street, Suite 330
Charleston, SC 29401
Phone: 843-881-8644