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State extends crackdown on nursing home

"State authorities have extended a ban on new admissions to Port Orchard Care Center because its staff and management are still in violation of several state and federal nursing-care standards.Officials say the problems remain after a two-month period in which the center had a chance to correct and prevent instances of alleged neglect and abuse of residents.Joyce Stockwell, state Nursing Home Quality Assurance administrator, said the federal government could take away the center's Medicare and Medicaid certification if it doesn't shape up by mid-June. At that point, it's basically a certainty the state would revoke the nursing home's license, Stockwell said. The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) issued the original ban in early December after investigations revealed confused residents, possibly suffering from dementia or complications from strokes, wandered off the grounds unattended. Officials said in December that a State Patrol officer returned a confused resident before nursing assistants realized what had happened. DSHS authorities also reported several abuse allegations, some sexual in nature, and failing management practices at the nursing home.Shortly after DSHS issued citations, the center, owned by Life Care Centers of America, submitted a plan of correction to DSHS. The plan was intended to prevent further wanderings and abuses of any kind, as well as reeducate staff on keeping accurate records on the status of residents. We regret that these situations occurred, and particularly that we didn't follow our own policies and procedures in ths matter, wrote Dawn Gegenfurtner, manager at Port Orchard Care Center. We understand the reason for the state's action, and we apologize to our residents, families and friends, as well as to the state for this oversight. It shouldn't happen again.Gegenfurtner couldn't be reached by press deadline for further comment on the most recent citations.Another state investigation at the center, conducted by state officials from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2, revealed its plan of correction fell short. According to officials, management violated state law by not telling decision-makers their loved ones had been named as alleged victims of abuse as residents at the nursing home. The report said allegations of abuse of some 18 residents included such acts as being slapped on the forehead, verbal abuse and taunting, pinching breasts, having ears flicked, squeezing limbs and rough handling.Officials said management also didn't implement an abuse-prevention program because secluded areas in the building where abuse could occur weren't closely supervised. The secured unit for dementia residents, for instance, is a locked wing with limited access. That area, officials said, wasn't watched even though several instances of the alleged abuse occurred there over the past year. The nursing home was cited again for allegedly bungling abuse-allegation investigations and providing erratic records and supervision on a wander-prone patient.One abuse investigation case involved an 80-year-old female resident who suffers from dementia and schizophrenia. State documents indicate that a nursing assistant told a licensed, on-duty nurse on Jan. 19 that the resident had been hit by two other nursing assistants about four months ago. The nursing assistant reportedly said the incident wasn't reported earlier because no one was sure if the resident was or wasn't suffering delusions. The facility didn't provide evidence that further interviews were conducted with the two nursing assistants, and there wasn't a clear attempt to determine how the resident communicated the identity of the perpetrator to the nursing assistant in the first place, state officials said.Meanwhile, interviews with a man who visited the center on Dec. 24 revealed he saw the wander-prone resident leave the building located on Pottery Avenue through the front door unattended. No alarm went off, and the visitor said she was in the parking lot wheeling herself toward a steeply inclined driveway leading onto a busy street. The visitor said he went into the facility for help and finally found staff members in the dining hall, well away from the door. Staff interviews confirmed the visitor's story later, though facility records originally indicated that the resident was being monitored every 15 minutes and, at the time of the incident, an alarm was tripped and staff immediately responded.Tennessee-based Life Care Centers of America, an agency that operates Port Orchard Care Center and 230 other nursing homes nationwide, issued a written statement that outlining plans for correcting the Port Orchard situation.Beecher Hunter, vice president of community relations for Life Care, said a new nursing director with more than 15 years experience was recently hired at the center, and that the corporation plans to hire additional human resources personnel to focus on recruiting and retaining qualified staffers. The creation of a corporate quality-assurance team was recently approved, Hunter said, and clinical practices that will ensure the highest quality of patient care have been initiated.At Port Orchard and other Life Care centers nationwide, our goal is to satisfy our residents and families by providing exceptional service. And we are committed to providing the best care and treatment possible. Therefore, changes have been made to affect improvement, Hunter wrote.Officials say the last nursing home in Washington to be shut down by authorities-its license and certification revoked-was in Spokane. It was closed in 1995."

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