For the better part of a decade, nursing home negligence has been a hot button issue. The industry has been flush with federal and private money, but it has failed to deliver the high-quality service expected by its residents and their families. Indeed, nursing home negligence has become a monthly (sometimes, weekly) staple in our nightly news. Last week saw two such stories.
Last week’s $20 million jury award
First was the trial of Mariner Health Care, a national name in nursing home care. In that case, it was sued by 10 plaintiffs, which consisted of five residents and five families of dead residents. In that case, the jury awarded $3.9 million in compensatory damages for “pre-death pain and suffering” and millions of dollars in attorney costs and fees, along with nearly $10 million in punitive (punishment) damages. These punitive damages were awarded to the 10 plaintiffs because the nursing home negligence was pervasive, severe and preventable.
Specifically, the jury and court noted many, if not all, of the issues could have been avoided by proper staffing levels. This is not to say that any warm body would have done, but that the facility at issue had not been properly staffed for years. This led to the hiring of unqualified individuals and an ongoing understaffing situation. That under and improper staffing issue led to severe consequences for residents, like improper wound care and overcite that led to resident-on-resident violence, including rape.
An entire state finds itself negligent
Next up is the entire state of Illinois. In this case, the state hired an independent, third-party consultant to examine how it was caring for its elderly population. Unfortunately, that independent, third-party consultant found that the state was doing extremely poorly. Indeed, about 20% of the state’s nursing homes were rated federally as one-star facilities, mostly due to issues of under staffing and no (or very little) overcite by the state. These issues of under staffing and no penalties for under staffing created a state-wide epidemic of nursing home negligence. This led to torturous conditions for residents and even death.
An understaffing and improper staffing epidemic
What does all this mean for Natchitoches, Louisiana, residents in nursing homes and their families? Bluntly, it means be on the lookout for staffing issues. Staffing issues, like a lack of staff or a lack of appropriate staff, are the first sign that nursing home negligence is happening or about to begin.