Nursing home crusader calls for change

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He says ratings don’t function well to explain abuse
By Sarah Stultz | Albert Lea Tribune

Published Friday, April 17, 2009

The Oklahoman founder of a national watchdog group for nursing homes on Thursday called state and national governments to action to change how substantiated abuse cases are cited and how they influence the rating of nursing homes on the federal Web site.

Because families of nursing home residents rely heavily on this rating system, the information there needs to be accurate and complete, he said. Otherwise, the whole system should be taken away.

During what was the third town hall meeting at the Albert Lea Inn regarding allegations of abuse from January to May of last year at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea, Bledsoe walked through examples of state health department reports and showed how the nursing home rating system works.

Bledsoe, of A Perfect Cause, a citizens’ advocacy organization in Oklahoma committed to long-term care reform, has been working with several local families of loved ones who were allegedly abused by nursing assistants last year at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea. He also travels around to other states where similar incidents have happened.

In Albert Lea, two young women, Brianna Broitzman and Ashton Larson, have each been charged with at least 10 charges of alleged abuse, ranging from disorderly conduct, assault and criminal sexual abuse at Good Samaritan. They will next be in court in May.

Bledsoe said since he was last in Albert Lea in January for their arraignments, he has been busy working on several different projects. He’s also been to South Dakota twice for another alleged abuse case.

Wes Bledsoe
During the town hall meeting Thursday, Bledsoe asked the audience members what they would like to know about a nursing home if they were searching for one for a loved one. They all agreed they would want to know if there has been mistreatment or any kind of abuse.

He went through numerous Minnesota Department of Health reports, including the report released last August alleging abuse at Good Sam. Many, including that report, showed there was substantiated abuse. But because the facilities self reported the incidents and implemented a plan of correction before the state health department arrived, they were not cited any deficiencies, he said.

In fact, more than 80 percent of the cases where abuse was substantiated in Minnesota over the last four years, there were not any deficiencies cited.

“This just blows my mind,” he said.

Bledsoe said he thinks all substantiated abuse cases should be included on a federal database. That way people searching for a nursing home are able to see a more accurate picture of what has happened.

Next, he showed the Web site, which uses a five-star rating system for nursing homes.

He went through all of the local nursing homes, plus others, and showed what he said he considers are discrepancies in how the rating system is concluded. He said he thinks people cannot solely trust the rating system.

He said families of alleged abuse victims of Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea, along with other experts and A Perfect Cause, are coming together to develop a training program for law enforcement, prosecutors, regulators and health care providers.

The program will be presented in a conference and will be videotaped and available online for training purposes.

He commended the local families who are taking “this really bad experience now and working to do something positive with it,” he said.

He asked people in the audience to make phone calls to their state legislators, to their U.S. congressman and to their U.S. senator to express their views regarding what he shared.

the zero deficiency policy and the rating system.

“Your phone call is extremely powerful,” he said.

Albert Lean Jan Reshetar, who has formed a support group for families of alleged elder abuse victims, said she thinks it’s important for people to get the conversation of these issues started and to keep it going.

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