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Published: Friday, 12/19/2003

Report rips conditions at Ottawa care facility


OTTAWA, Ohio - A Putnam County nursing home where a resident wandered outside and drowned earlier this year suffers from poor patient care, lack of building maintenance, and reduced staffing, according to a report released yesterday.

State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) and representatives of the Service Employees International Union, which issued the report, said Trans Healthcare, Inc., has allowed conditions at the Autumn Court Care Center to deteriorate since buying the 50-bed facility nearly three years ago.

It s a pattern the Maryland-based company has repeated in many of the 51 other nursing homes it owns in Ohio, the lawmaker said during a news conference outside the Ottawa facility.

“The quality of the care in these homes dropped rapidly because THI cares more about profits than the quality care of the residents,” Ms. Fedor said. “This report shows a troubling and disturbing pattern.”

Kelli Garrison, the home s corporate administrator, would not comment on the report.

Doug Morris, a Trans Healthcare spokesman, said the company cooperates with regulators and meets state requirements.

“The state is in there looking at our facilities, our maintenance, our food preparation - a range of issues,” he said. “And we are currently in compliance with all state regulations.”

Mr. Morris noted that SEIU District 1199, which represents about 35 nonnursing employees at Autumn Court, is in contract talks with the company.

The union s report, a compilation of state data, found that:

•  Citations from the state for patient care violations rose from two in 2000 to 12 this year, more than twice the state average.

•  Autumn Court ranked 853rd out of 855 nursing homes statewide in a 2002 survey that measured residents satisfaction.

•  The number of nurse-aide hours per resident per day at the home dropped below 2.0 last year, a level that puts residents at risk for quality problems, according to the federal Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

The report also pointed to the death of Jeffery Long, 47, an Autumn Court resident who was found in a water-filled ditch behind the home early on April 11.

According to a state inspection report, Mr. Long, of Irwin, Pa., was admitted April 4 to Autumn Care with a diagnosis that included affective psychosis and organic delusional syndrome. The admitting physician ordered that the patient wear a device that would trigger an alarm if he tried to leave the facility alone. However, the patient did not receive the device, the state found.

The report said the patient was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes, yet no check was done between 10:15 p.m. and midnight April 11, when he was discovered missing.

Mr. Long was found an hour later, face-up in the ditch behind the care center. He was pronounced dead 40 minutes later.

In May, state inspectors investigating the incident cited Autumn Court for a violation that resulted in “immediate jeopardy” to a patient s health or safety.

Asked about the incident, Mr. Morris replied: “A lot of that I couldn t comment on because of patient confidentiality issues.”

He added: “Whenever issues or deficiencies are found within a facility, the company does work closely with state officials to rectify the situation.”

According to state statistics, Autumn Court nurses and nurse s aides work 2.93 hours per resident per day, compared with the Ohio average of 4.1 hours.

However, the state also found 2 percent of the home s residents suffered from pressure sores, compared with a statewide average of 10 percent.

Natalie Butler, who has been a nurse s aide at the care center for 13 years, said management cuts corners in areas such as building maintenance and residents menus. Instead of replacing drafty windows, the company seals them with duct tape in the winter, she said.

For snacks, she said, residents sometimes get plain saltine crackers.

“We re very angry,” she said. “We just want these people taken care of better.”

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