Despite Strong Words, Nursing Homes Aren’t Getting Better

In 2015, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane sued Golden Living, a nursing home chain, for understaffing its facilities and failing to provide basic care. Families had been having problems with Golden Living for years, suing them for poor training, medication errors, and resident fatalities. At the time, it was the largest nursing home chain in the nation. Today, it’s a bad memory for hundreds of families.

“When you say ‘Golden Living,’ people just suck in air,” said Terri Smith, a woman whose brother lived his last days in a Golden Living facility. “It’s a scary word. It’s almost like a bad word.”

In response to the lawsuit, Golden Living sold 36 of its licenses in Pennsylvania to other operators in 2017. The lawsuit also pushed the Health Department to get tougher on nursing homes while advocates continued pressing for higher standards on the one thing that could solve most nursing home safety issues: low staffing. By increasing the staffing requirements in the state, advocates were (and are) convinced that homes would provide better care.

However, a recent investigation found that Golden Living’s former homes have not improved, and in fact, many of them have gotten worse. One year after the massive Golden Living sale, 22 of the 36 homes have been cited as frequently or more frequently than before.

The investigation noted issues like:

  • Supervisory failures
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Insect infestations
  • Falsified records

Advocates believe the blame rests partially on poor vetting by the state. In one example, Skyline Healthcare, which bought seven of Golden Living’s licenses, financially imploded in April. The state had to take emergency control of their facilities because there’s no criteria for financial stability when it comes to applying for a nursing home license. Those seven licenses have been sold again.

Responding to elder care advocates and critics of his administration, Governor Tom Wolf says he hopes to release tougher nursing home regulations by the end of December. Advocates say that tougher regulations would be good, but so would stronger enforcement of current regulations.

Golden Living Maintains a Foothold in Pennsylvania

Complicating matters is the fact that Golden Living still has a financial interest in all of their ‘former’ homes. Take Priority Healthcare Group, the buyer for 11 of Golden Living’s nursing home licenses. Technically, Priority Healthcare is a tenant managing a nursing home, which is still owned by Golden Living. The nursing home chain maintains ownership of the property its former homes sit on, meaning they still determine (indirectly) the cost of services.

Of the 11 nursing homes Priority Healthcare now runs, 8 of them have been cited more often in 2017 than they were in 2016 under Golden Living’s management. In most cases, staffing levels either stayed the same or lowered after the transfer of management. A nurse who works at one of PHG’s facilities said, “The name changed but everything in the facility stayed the same. How they ran things, how they staffed things—things never got any better.”

In one of her stories, she mentioned how a patient’s tracheostomy tube was clogged. The nurses were so poorly trained that only one of them were capable of unclogging the tube. If that nurse had been out to lunch, she believes the patient might have died.

One of the homes that PHG now runs is the East Pennsboro home, formerly the worst of Golden Living’s facilities. Under PHG, the home has received twice as many citations as it did in 2016. This is the home that gained notoriety when regulators found maggots in a feeding tube in 2015. In all, most of Golden Living’s former facilities are not improving.

Bipartisan Support for Better Oversight

Both of Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators, Senator Bob Casey Jr. and Senator Pat Toomey, have demanded answers from state officials regarding how nursing homes are regulated. In February, Senator Casey was among the 12 senators who signed a letter urging the federal government to crack down on nursing home safety.

Advocates believe part of the problem is lack of suitable penalties. For example, one former Golden Living home caused a medication error that left a patient unresponsive. They were only fined $15,000. If nursing homes had to pay dearly for every terrible accident they caused, change would be swift and lasting.

The Premier Pennsylvania Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys

Handler, Henning & Rosenberg is committed to forcing the nursing home industry to change. Our firm has investigated and brought numerous successful claims against both large nationwide nursing home chains and smaller nursing homes. HHR recognizes the system failures within these negligent nursing homes, as well as in assisted living facilities and personal care homes. We are committed to protecting the safety of the elderly against the sort of neglect and mistreatment reported by PennLive.

Our firm has the resources and expertise to hold those who fail the frail accountable. Since 1922, our firm has fought for our neighbors, helping them hold wrongdoers accountable when companies harmed them. Our results include verdicts and settlements that number in the six-figure range. Just recently, our Pennsylvania nursing home abuse attorneys have recovered results in cases such as this that exceed $200,000. Each of our results help families put their loved ones in better homes, help elderly victims get medical treatment, and help grieving families get justice from negligent caregivers. If your loved one is staying in a subpar facility or you’ve seen evidence of mistreatment, don’t hesitate: call our firm immediately. We can review your legal options with you for free, helping you make the next decision quickly.

Call (888) 498-3023 or contact us online today for a free consultation.

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