A new federal inspection report shows nursing home neglect and abuse has been pervasive at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities across the country, including Augusta, Maine. Residents have been denied medication, trapped in wheelchairs for hours and have sustained wounds rivaling those they suffered in combat. Inspectors reported spotting nurses sleeping on-the-job, and other nurses unable to respond to distress calls because patients had no functional call light.
An estimated 40,000 veterans are residents at VA nursing homes throughout the country at any given time. A joint report by USA Today and the Boston Globe revealed that in a VA nursing home in Maine’s capital, veterans, without enough medication, spent hours clearly in pain .
The reporting team first revealed that private contractor inspectors investigated the VA system nine months ago, but until recently their actual reports weren’t made public. The reports painted a picture of abysmal care of aging and vulnerable veterans and revealed that of 99 VA nursing homes inspected, 55 were cited for care deficiencies that resulted in actual harm to veterans. In three of those cases, inspectors discovered that the health and safety of veterans was in immediate jeopardy.Experts reported that private nursing homes are rarely cited for such egregious offenses, though certainly, as our nursing home injury lawyers know, private nursing homes have many problems of their own. It also may be something of an apples-to-oranges comparison because inspections of nursing homes not associated with the VA may not have as stringent standards.
Common issues cited in the report were:
- Bedsores. A red flag of nursing home neglect, bedsores were cited at more than two dozen of these federally-run facilities, where caregivers reportedly did not take adequate measures to make sure the sores healed and new ones didn’t fester. The reason bedsores are so troubling, aside from the fact they are incredibly painful, is that they occur when a person who is frail is left in the same position for too long without being turned. They are virtually always preventable, and should be quickly treated with proper care. In one case in Ohio, inspectors identified a veteran who suffered five bedsores over the course of six months.
- Urinary tract infections. Nursing managers at one facility reportedly were not properly cleaning patients. One patient ended up with six urinary tract infections in seven months, three of those from E. coli bacteria. Caregivers at numerous facilities weren’t regularly washing their hands or using sterile gloves to treat patients.
- Falls. In one case, an aide was leaning on a patient’s bed looking at a smartphone when the patient, who had Parkinson’s disease, fell over and onto the floor, consquently suffering a head injury requiring stitches. The patient had a history of falls. The same aide had been instructed to only feed the man liquids, but instead on numerous occasions reportedly fed the patient fast-food. As it turned out, the aide was not even trained to be feeding the man.
- Burns. Water for hand-washing and bathing was hot enough to scald at one facility, with residents suffering dementia at particular risk, being less sensitive to recognizing sensory warnings. Patients unable to safely hold or light cigarettes were able to smoke them alone outside without supervision.
Officials with the VA told reporters in a prepared statement that nursing home residents at their facilities tend to have more complex medical histories, with more than 40 percent having suffered some type of health problem related to their service in the military that rendered them more than half disabled.
It should be noted that taxpayers foot the bill for veterans’ nursing home care at VA centers which is quadruple the cost of private nursing home facilities and 6.5 times more than that of state-run nursing homes.
As a nursing home injury lawyer can tell you, injuries like these should never happen. These incidents are preventable and reflect a failure to abide the applicable standard of care and to use reasonable care, the criteria for determining medical malpractice or negligence. Still, the burden of proof for these cases is high, especially when medical malpractice is alleged in a claim. This is true for all nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits, but particularly when the defendant is the federal government.
Contact the Maine nursing home abuse lawyers at Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.