Aug 28, 2010

Jurors Pee on Skilled Healthcare Group Inc -- 677 Million Times

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

A Humboldt County (Cailfornia) jury slammed Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. with a damage award of $677 million verdict last month. The jury found that Skilled Healthcare Group failed to adequately staff its nursing homes. Skilled Healthcare Group has 22 nursing home facilities in the State of California.

Some of the key testimony in the case came from Cindy Cool. Cindy testified that during her almost daily visits to the nursing home, she would routinely find her father who had Alzheimer's disease wearing urine-soaked clothes.

Ms. Cool, 58, was part of a class-action lawsuit representing 32,000 patients that blamed the nursing home staff shortage for the misery she encountered.

This lawsuit was about a common complaint that is being heard all across the country -- for-profit nursing homes are too concerned with the bottom line and not concerned enough about patient well being.

As many of you know, I am always looking for simple solutions to problems. You might want to close your eyes or click out of this article right here. You will probably come to the conclusion that I am a nut if you read on. I'll take my chances because this lawsuit has me riled up.

This is what I think. I think all the management of those 22 nursing homes, and all of the management of Skilled Healthcare Group should have to walk around for a day in urine soaked cloths.

Harsh, yes.

Crazy? I don't know you tell me. I think this might wake some people up. This might actually lead to a real solution to this national problem. At the minimum, it would lead to some real discussion. Real discussion of a problem that is currently being swept under the rug.

If I had a ten bucks for every time someone wrote to me telling me about a horrific problem in a nursing home I would have some serious money in my account. Think about it. This lawsuit had 32,000 patients for 22 nursing homes. I think there are over 16,000 nursing homes nationwide. Now don't get me wrong, I am sure many of them are excellent. I am just as sure that many of them aren't.

In return for walking around in public with urine stained cloths for a day, Skilled Healthcare Group would get the jury verdict reduced to an amount that would allow them to avoid bankruptcy. This will probably happen anyway.

The real goal here would be to force the nursing care industry to meet regulations requiring them to keep a minimum number of nurses on duty, and to meet minimum staffing standards as required by law. Or, to walk around themselves in pee soaked clothing for a day.

Interestingly, I just received an email today from a reader that told me she spent most every day at the nursing home visiting her mother. She went on to say:
I was a HAWK in making sure she was cared for.... I even did surprise visits at midnight and 2 a.m. to make sure she was being cared for and sometimes I had big surprises that weren't so good.
I have to say, seems like bunkhouse logic to me. Good way to stay on top of the situation.

Here is a segment from the Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc. press release dated August 27.

Today the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Humboldt, denied the Motion for Mistrial or New Trial on Grounds of Juror Misconduct filed previously by Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc. (NYSE: SKH) in the case entitled VINNIE LAVENDER, by and through her Conservator, WANDA BAKER; WALTER SIMON; JACQUELYN VILCHINSKY vs. SKILLED HEALTHCARE GROUP, INC., et al (and 22 individually-named California nursing facilities receiving administrative services from Skilled Healthcare, LLC).

The Court also granted an order for permanent injunction requiring the Defendants and those California skilled nursing facilities owned and operated by the Defendants to provide specified nurse staffing levels, comply with specified state and federal laws governing staffing levels and posting requirements, and provide reports and information to a monitor.

The Company subsequently filed a notice of appeal on the injunction to the Court of Appeals, which defers enforcement of the injunction until resolution of the appeal.

No final judgment has been rendered in the case, and further proceedings with the court are presently scheduled to begin on August 31, 2010. The Company maintains that the skilled nursing facilities are properly staffed to provide quality patient care.

The company still maintains they maintained adequate staffing.

I doubt the mediators in this case -- the company attorneys and the litigators -- will discuss my solution to the problem.

The odd thing. The Company failed to properly staff their nursing homes because their primary motivation was profit. Now, the litigators want the money, all $677 million. Real motive, profit.

I wonder what the 32,000 patients and their families would think about my potential solution and resolution of this lawsuit? I wonder what Cindy Cool would think?

Either way, the verdict sends a message to nursing home operators all over the country -- there is now a cost to allowing real live human beings to lay around in pee soaked clothing.

Congratulations to the jurors for sending the message.

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Bob DeMarco is the editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. Bob has written more than 1,810 articles with more than 89,500 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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