Charges Against Nurse Have Now Led to a Proposed $20,000 Fine for Nursing Home

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has received recommendations to fine one nursing home $20,000, according to officials who conducted an investigation of the nursing home after the death of one of its patients. A 97-page report based on the investigation by the State Nursing Home Licensure and Certification Section shows that in case after case, there were reports of lethargic patients with altered mental status who then tested positive for opiates.

Toxicology reports indicated 14 of 29 residents in the  facility's Alzheimer's Unit tested positive for opiates, yet they had not been prescribed any medication containing opiates. Seven of those residents were hospitalized, and one resident died from aspiration pneumonia and morphine, the report said. In another case, a patient who later tested positive for opiates was found on the floor of the room, after apparently falling and injuring her hip.

Once it was discovered patients had tested positive for opiates, the facility conducted it's own investigation, but it couldn't find the source of the morphine. They checked all the medications, tested the Tylenol it uses for patients, tested ice and food, and drug-tested all its employees. None of the employees tested positive for drugs, the report said. Bottled water and individual containers of applesauce were even brought in, as a precaution, the report said. The facility also put additional staff member in the Alzheimer's unit 24 hours a day to monitor for anything suspicious, the report said.

The State Bureau of Investigators was contacted, and it began an investigation that later resulted in the arrest of a nurse at the facility, who was charged with one count of second-degree murder and six counts of patient abuse for giving patients morphine, which caused serious bodily injury.

The Department of Health and Human Services nursing home licensure section sent a letter this week to the facility administrator informing her of the decision to recommend the fine based on its failure to comply with the requirements of Medicare and Medicaid. The fine would be for $10,000 per day for two days of non-compliance, which constitutes substandard quality of care. For more, read the story.

Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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