Report shows deficiencies in several county facilities

Activities specialist Darlene Johnson, right, sits with resident Irene Learn as the two sing a popular song from World War II together during a sing-along at Family Health West in Fruita.

Certified nursing assistant Jennifer Peck, right, sings along with resident Mary Jones during a sing-along at Family Health West. The nursing facility scored high in a recent rating.

Five of Mesa County’s eight nursing homes garnered more health inspection violations than the average Colorado nursing home, according to state and federal inspection data.

The county’s nursing homes racked up anywhere from 10 to 44 health deficiencies on inspections conducted between July 2007 and October 2008, according to a recently unveiled database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The average Colorado nursing home had 12 deficiencies, according to the federal data.

The information, available on the federal agency’s new five-star rating system, compares the more than 15,000 nursing homes that accept patients covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

The Palisade Living Center, topped the list with 44 health-related deficiencies over the 16-month period, including three of a serious nature.

The most egregious of its deficiencies, according to inspection records from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, was a case of patient neglect.

During a May inspection, a certified nursing assistant reported that one patient had been left in her bed, dripping with urine, with an empty oxygen tank at her bedside.

“There’s a difference between neglect and gross neglect. This is by far gross neglect,” the certified nursing assistant told the inspector during a May 1 interview. “It’s a sad, sad thing. …

There is nobody in the world that deserves to be treated this way.”

The staff addressed these problems by its next round of inspections in July and August, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Timothy Newren, administrator of the Palisade Living Center, did not respond to interview requests for this story.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which rolled out its five-star rating system in mid-December, gave the Palisade Living Center two out of five stars. On health issues, the nursing home garnered one star.

Four other local nursing homes, Mesa Manor Care Center, Mantey Heights Rehabilitation and Care Center, Eagle Ridge at Grand Valley and the La Villa Grande Care Center, received one or two stars from the federal agency.

Local nursing home administrators, however, said the federal agency’s ranking system grossly misstates their quality of care.

Melissa Wood, administrator at Larchwood Inns, said the rating system disregards factors beyond its three quality measures — health inspections, staffing levels and fire safety.

“We did customer-satisfaction surveys,” Wood said. “None of that was looked at.”

Wood said the best gauge of quality should come from those living in nursing homes or those with family staying in nursing homes.

Paul Crook, administrator of the La Villa Grande Care Center, said the survey inappropriately weights in-house staffing.

For example, he said his nursing home brings in therapists to help residents instead of having in-house therapists.

They do not count in the survey, he said.

Beyond local nursing home administrators, the federal ratings have drawn fire from a series of health care advocacy groups, including the American Health Care Association and the American Association of Homes and Service for the Aging.

Bruce Yarwood, president of the American Health Care Association, said the rating system is misleading and relies on only a handful of factors to rate nursing homes.

Not every local nursing home administrator was upset about the new rating system.

Chris Mueller, director of the Grand Junction Regional Center, said the star ratings should at least give Mesa County residents interested in placing someone in a nursing home a sense of the relative quality of local facilities.

The Grand Junction Regional Center, which the Colorado Department of Human Services runs, was the only local nursing home to achieve a five-star rating.

Mueller said the Grand Junction Regional Center caters to developmentally disabled clients only.

Mueller said the rating system, whatever its flaws, should serve as a starting point for people interested in placing family in a nursing home.

“What’s important is that it would be wise for people to do follow-up,” he said.


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