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South Fort Myers nursing- home neglect report attracts authorities

February 12, 2010

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1:10 A.M. — The Agency for Health Care Administration is investigating a south Fort Myers nursing home where Lee County deputies are looking into elder neglect.

Signature HealthCARE at College Park, a 107-bed skilled nursing facility, has been the subject of several complaints to state agencies in the past.

It received an overall rating of one out of five stars, or much below average, from the federal Medicare’s nursing home comparison site.

Shelisha Durden, a spokeswoman for AHCA, which regulates such facilities, said she couldn’t discuss details of the investigation.

Kim Morrow, vice president of operations for South Florida for Signature HealthCARE, said the business is required by law to self-report to agencies, so complaints may have arisen that way.

“I don’t think there are any issues that people need to be concerned about,” she said. “Unfortunately, the negative side to nursing home care is always publicized.”

The Lee sheriff’s office began investigating after a daughter found her 86-year-old father slumped in his wheelchair Tuesday, a report said. The man was taken to the hospital where officials reportedly found he was wearing three soiled diapers and said it appeared he hadn’t been washed for days.

Signature HealthCARE scored a single star in health inspections, during which 21 deficiencies were found compared with a state average of nine, the Medicare site said. Of the 18 Lee nursing homes reviewed, four others received a much below
average overall rating.

Durden said AHCA gives a facility 10 days to develop a plan for any problems investigators find.

“They could be fined depending on how bad the violation is and establish a moratorium,” she said, speaking in general. “Or, if they don’t fix the problems, they could be shut.”

The Florida agency fielded 1,700 complaints involving 700 nursing homes in 2009, Durden said, noting complaints are fairly common but not all facilities receive complaints in a year.

In 2009, the agency received a handful of complaints about the for-profit nursing home. No deficiencies were cited in four of the visits. A February 2009 visit found the home failed to meet requirements to provide an adequate supply of clean linens.

A follow-up report the next month found it was in compliance.

The Department of Children and Families has received seven allegations of elder abuse or neglect since December, said Erin Gillespie, a spokeswoman.

Ann Proie, a Fort Myers-based manager for Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, said the home had a “thick” file but could not disclose how many or the nature of complaints lodged.

Proie said the program also would look into the recent allegations.

“We certainly are concerned and we will have the ombudsmen be cognizant when they visit the facility and look to make sure the residents appear to be cared for, clean and their rights are honored.”

In a 2008 visit, an ombudsman heard complaints from a resident alleging he or she had been left on a bedpan for three hours, records show. Residents said the care was “generally good,” but response to call lights could be improved.

During a February 2009 visit, the office recommended the business try to improve responsiveness to call lights and to only speak English around English-speaking clients.