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Pennsylvania AG Sues Nursing Facilities in McKeesport, 10 Other Cities

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
November 04, 2016
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Riverside Care Center in McKeesport at times was so understaffed, a "confidential witness" told investigators from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, that incontinent residents who needed to be changed were left to lie in their own waste for up to four hours.

When the witness --- a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, who worked at the facility from 2009 to 2012 --- complained to management, she told investigators, she was disciplined.

Those are among the allegations in a 115-page lawsuit filed Thursday in state Commonwealth Court against Pittsburgh-based Grane Healthcare Co. and 11 of its 12 affiliated nursing homes, which include Riverside in McKeesport and Woodhaven Care Center in Monroeville.

Attorney General Bruce Beemer on Friday said the nursing homes failed to provide basic needs --- including hot food --- to elderly and ill residents, made misleading claims in marketing materials, and billed customers for services that were never provided.

"These alleged misrepresentations not only deceived the residents of these facilities, but Grane’s business practices also degraded residents and increased the risk of negative health consequences," Beemer said. "We believe there is ample evidence that these facilities fell far short when it came to providing essential services."

The lawsuit alleges that Grane violated the state's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and asks the court to assess penalties against Grane and the nursing homes, and for Grane and the homes to refund money paid to the nursing homes by the state for services which Beemer claims were never provided.

Grane's Pittsburgh office did not respond Friday afternoon to an email from Tube City Almanac seeking comment.

In addition to the McKeesport and Monroeville facilities, nursing homes in Altoona, Beaver Falls, Cheswick, Ebensburg, Harrisburg, Johnstown, Kittanning, Mount Pleasant and Pittsburgh's Highland Park neighborhood also were named in the lawsuit.

Grane's website identifies it as "a management services company that provides consultation, advice, and administrative support to independent providers of long-term care." Its website lists 12 skilled nursing facilities, including the 11 named in the lawsuit, as its "clients."

But the lawsuit contends the nursing homes are essentially owned-and-operated subsidiaries of Grane. "The Grane Facilities are not, in any way, 'independent,'" the lawsuit states, "because the same people who own Grane Healthcare own each of the Grane Facilities."

Grane Healthcare's head office "controls every aspect of their budget and operations," the lawsuit claims.

Beemer said the investigation by the Health Care Section of the Attorney General's Office included interviews with former employees of Grane facilities as well as a review of survey results reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

According to the lawsuit, at Riverside, located in Downtown McKeesport, a former employee told state investigators that the facility was sometimes so understaffed that residents' hot meals were cold by the time they were finally able to eat them.

Residents at Riverside were rushed through their bathroom breaks and sometimes were forced to stop their showers before they had fully washed, the witness told investigators, according to the lawsuit.

At Woodhaven, in Monroeville, one witness told investigators that he worked as a CNA from 2008 to 2009, and again from 2010 to 2011. In that time, the lawsuit contends, the number of patients cared for by each individual CNA went from six, to 12, to 20.

At times, the witness claimed, residents of Woodhaven would press the call buttons requesting assistance, but because no CNAs were available, no help would be sent, and nurses would eventually just turn off the call lights.

In all, the lawsuit claims that state investigators found systematic understaffing at 11 Grane affiliated facilities that resulted in:

  • Incontinent residents "left in wet and soiled clothing and bedding";
  • Residents being left in their pajamas during the day, because staff didn't have time to dress them;
  • Residents who could not move themselves being left for three or four hours in the same position, resulting in bedsores;
  • CNAs using mechanical lifts to reposition residents without getting proper assistance;
  • "Excessive and inappropriate use of physical and pharmacological restraints" on residents;
  • Residents missing meals or not getting enough to eat;
  • Residents facing long waits for assistance;
  • Residents not getting adequate range of motion exercises; and
  • Falsification of records to show that residents "received more care than staff had really provided."

Throughout the period covered by the investigation, Beemer said, "Grane facilities advertised and marketed to consumers that they strive for a very high staff-to-patient ratio," and that advertising, he said, "was deceptive, misleading and unfair."

People with complaints about health care facilities may call the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Health Care Section at 1-877-888-4877, Beemer said. Complaints also may be filed online at www.attorneygeneral.gov by selecting "File a Complaint" from the tool bar and then "Health Care."

Originally published November 04, 2016.

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