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Nursing Homes Profiting from High Intensity, Possibly Unnecessary Therapy, Research Shows

Published on Oct 10, 2018 at 3:00 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

A new study is revealing an alarming trend among nursing homes – facilities are increasingly providing elderly residents with intensive, costly, and possibly unnecessary therapy, even in the last weeks of their lives. The study, conducted by the University of Rochester and published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, is raising concerns about the necessity and potential dangers of intensive therapy, as well as whether profits may be prompting their use.

Here are a few key details about the study:

  • For the study, researchers gathered and reviewed data from over 600 nursing facilities in the state of New York and the records of nearly 56,000 deceased individuals who were long-stay residents.
  • The study had a special focus on residents who received “ultrahigh intensity” rehabilitation services in the 30 days prior to their death. These services, including various forms of physical, speech, and occupational therapy, are classified at “ultrahigh” by Medicare if they are provided for more than 12 hours in a week, which is equivalent to 2 hours of rehab a day.
  • According to researchers, nursing homes are increasingly utilizing ultrahigh intensity therapy. From October 2012 to April 2016, the study notes, there was a 65 percent increase in the proportion of residents who received these services.
  • Most of the ultrahigh rehabilitation services residents received was provided during their final days of life.

Pennsylvania Passes Act 53 to Expand Prosecution Power in Elder and Nursing Home Abuse Cases

Published on Sep 19, 2018 at 3:06 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

America’s growing elderly population has facilitated the expansion of a booming industry tasked with providing the support, care, and services they need. Unfortunately, the proliferation of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and companies offering daily care and living assistance services has also created growing concerns over the safety of our most vulnerable population, especially in terms of elder and nursing home abuse. Those concerns were a significant factor behind the recent passing of Act 53.

Act 53, which has been praised by victims’ advocates and State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, is a legislative act designed to combat elder and nursing home abuse. Though the legislation has been introduced by Pennsylvania lawmakers every session since 2007, it was only passed and signed into law earlier this year. Here are few important facts about the new law:

  • Act 53 expands the authority of the state’s Attorney General’s Office in prosecuting matters involving the abuse and neglect of elderly individuals, including those who suffer harm as a result of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • Prior to Act 53, the Attorney General’s office was limited to bringing allegations against facilities and wrongdoers for cases involving neglect, but not abuse. Instead, abuse allegations against nursing homes and assisted living facilities were handled by local prosecutors.
  • The new law removes a provision that previously required prosecutors handling neglect cases to prove that victims suffered actual physical injuries.

Act 53’s expansion of prosecutorial powers is significant for several reasons. First and foremost, it sends a clear message that Pennsylvania takes cases of elder abuse and neglect seriously, and that offenders can and will be held accountable for their wrongdoing and failures. In addition to expanding prosecution power and resources for these cases, the new law also expands the rights of victims and their families, many of whom often struggled under previous laws to bring at-fault parties to justice.

Boating Accidents, Victims’ Rights & Liability

Published on Aug 20, 2018 at 3:08 pm in Personal Injury.

The summer is a popular time for water activities. This doesn’t just include cooling off at swimming pools. It also includes a range of recreational boating activities, especially along the rivers and lakes throughout Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas. Whether it’s fishing, water sports, power boating, or a simple way to enjoy the water, however, recreational boating poses numerous risks to all involved. What’s more, those risks can be substantially elevated when negligence is involved.

At Shrager & Sachs, our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers represent injured victims and families throughout Pennsylvania, and are aware of the many situations and circumstances that can lead to preventable boating accidents. Given the fact that Pennsylvania is consistently ranked among the top U.S. states when it comes to boating-related injuries and deaths, our legal team is prepared to help victims and their loved ones understand their rights and who can be held liable for their damages.

Personal Injury Law: Your Rights After a Preventable Injury

When it comes to the preventable accidents, including boating accidents, injured victims may have the right to seek justice and compensation for their losses by pursuing a personal injury case. While the facts of each case are always unique, these matters focus on holding individuals or entities accountable for negligent acts that caused or contributed to preventable accidents. In addition to seeking accountability, personal injury claims and lawsuits are also essential to helping victims and families recover financial compensation for the damages they incurred – including their medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and more.

Nursing Home Injuries Caused by Inadequate Staffing

Published on Aug 13, 2018 at 3:10 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

Families face a difficult task when deciding whether or not to place their elderly loved ones in a nursing home or assisted living facility, not to mention a challenge in finding the right one. To aid them in this journey, many families will utilize various resources that provide insight into the level of care and support facilities will provide their family member. This may include visits and consultations at the nursing homes themselves, and the use of online tools like Medicare’s five-star nursing home rating system. Unfortunately, as recent federal data indicates, those tools, even when curated by a government agency, may not always provide a full or accurate picture about the quality of care provided at facilities.

According to a recent report from The New York Times, newly acquired federal data has revealed that most American nursing homes over reported staffing levels for years as a way to game Medicare’s five-star system and benefit from higher ratings.

The findings, which came from new payroll data submissions only recently required by Medicare, showed that many U.S. nursing homes had substantial gaps in the numbers of staff and aids on duty, especially during weekends and at night. In fact, some nursing homes had staff-to-resident ratios of 1 for every 18, or even less during their lowest staffing periods, despite having reported higher staffing rates to the U.S. government. The data also revealed significant staffing gaps in the numbers of qualified nurses on duty, which were again often at their lowest during weekends and nights.

How Staffing Problems Pose Risks of Nursing Home Injuries

The new data has made waves throughout the U.S., and has prompted Medicare to reevaluate its rating system and make adjustments based on the new numbers, which had escaped oversight due to the fact that under previous policies, nursing facilities could submit staffing data that was unverified by regulators.

It is also raising awareness about just how important staffing is in nursing homes, especially when it comes to reducing risks of preventable injuries. Below, our legal team at Shrager & Sachs discusses a few ways that staffing problems can pose increased risks of nursing home injuries:

  • Neglect-related injuries – Without sufficient staff on duty, there is greater potential for the staff who are working to become overburdened by numerous tasks. These can include tasks such as responding to calls made by residents for assistance with basic needs, such as getting dressed or using the restroom, as well as time-sensitive tasks for checking in on residents, ensuring they have food and water, addressing any medical needs, and more. Unfortunately, that means residents are at risk of suffering harm and injuries that could and should have been prevented if not for neglect and oversight, including dehydration and malnutrition, injuries caused by falls, infections, and worsening of bed sores.
  • Medical problems – Many residents in nursing homes and similar facilities have extensive and evolving medical needs. This often means residents require regular check-ins, assistance with daily tasks, and time-sensitive administration of medications or forms of treatment for a given condition. When staff are overburdened and facilities understaffed, there are greater risks that such medical issues will turn into medical problems and preventable injuries, including those caused by medication errors, missed treatment, and more. It may also mean that untrained staff will administer medical care that registered and licensed nurses or medical professionals should provide.
  • Emergencies – Inadequate staffing is especially dangerous when it comes to responding appropriately to emergencies. This may include any number of medical emergencies and issues such as falls, assaults between residents, and more. Because time is often of the essence in such situations, a lack of timely response and a lack of appropriate immediate treatment can prove disastrous when emergencies occur.
  • Nursing home abuse – Abuse in nursing homes is unfortunately more common than most think, which is why vigilance and adequate staffing are so critical to reducing risks that a resident will become a victim. With insufficient staff, however, overburdened aides or nurses are more likely to become abusers themselves, often as a result of stress, fatigue, and more. They are also less likely to provide the care and monitoring needed to spot warning signs when abuse does occur, whether that involves physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse committed against residents by other staff members or by other residents.

Our legal team at Shrager & Sachs regularly features posts on our blog about nursing home abuse and neglect, as well as important issues that affect nursing home residents and their families. In light of the new findings, we want to remind families of the importance of choosing a nursing home facility carefully, and regularly checking in on the health and affairs of a loved one. We also want to remind families that they have legal rights should an elderly family member suffer preventable harm in a nursing home as a result of abuse, neglect, insufficient staffing, medical malpractice, and any other form of negligence.

If you have questions about a potential nursing home injury case, your rights when pursuing the justice and compensation your deserve, and how our award-winning Philadelphia nursing home injury lawyers at Shrager & Sachs can help, contact us for a free and confidential consultation. Our firm proudly serves nursing home residents and families throughout the state of Pennsylvania and beyond.

Swimming Pool Accidents & Liability

Published on Jul 16, 2018 at 3:11 pm in Personal Injury.

Summer is now here, and with it warmer weather. During this time of year, enjoying your free time and the outdoors often means cooling off in the pool. While swimming pools are a great form of recreational fun and a great way to exercise, they aren’t free from safety risks and the potential for preventable accidents and injuries – especially when negligence is involved.

Unfortunately, as statistics show, swimming pool accidents are a common cause of accidental injury and death nationwide. This is especially true during the summer months. While it is important to make safety a priority when enjoying your time at a private or public pool, not all injuries can be prevented by your own vigilance alone. Some may be the result of another’s negligence.

As with any personal injury case, victims harmed in swimming pool accidents may have the right to seek justice and financial compensation for their damages – including their pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical expenses – when they are able to effectively demonstrate that another party should be held accountable, either as a result of their negligence or their strict liability. Below, our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys discuss a few common issues when it comes to swimming pool accidents and determining who should be held at fault for victims’ injuries.

Proposed CMS Rule Could Put a Stop on Public Reporting of Hospital Infections

Published on Jul 9, 2018 at 3:12 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Over the years, we have discussed many health care related issues on our blog, including those involving medical malpractice. We have also written many posts discussing proposed rules and legislative changes in the health care industry that harm patients, their rights, and their safety. Recently, a new proposed rule change that would put an end to public reporting of certain infections acquired in hospitals has been making headlines, and is being criticized for its potential impact on public safety.

The newly proposed rule change is part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plan. Under the proposed legislation, federal regulators would no longer report on hospital infections, including serious infections and other accidents and injuries, including:

  • The “super bug” MRSA
  • Post-operative sepsis
  • Surgical site infections
  • Patient injuries / infections ranging from bedsores to respiratory failure post-surgery
  • Never events (preventable medical errors that should never happen)

If the proposed rule is approved and finalized, the CMS website won’t disclose data on infections or safety measures. That’s because doing so would require that data to be part of a program the current Presidential administration states hospitals should no longer use to report safety issues.

Pennsylvania Legislature Votes Against Bill Capping Punitive Damages in Nursing Home Abuse Cases

Published on Jul 5, 2018 at 3:14 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently voted against a bill that would have put a cap on the punitive damages that could be awarded to victims in verdicts against nursing homes in the state.

This bill sought to apply the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act to assisted living facilities and nursing homes, which would have capped these damages to 250 percent of the compensatory damages awarded.

“This bill demonstrates that the Pennsylvania legislature, which remains majority-controlled by Republicans, works very hard to balance the interests of its individual constituents and the business interests here in Pennsylvania,” attorney Robert L. Sachs, Jr. said in an interview with the Pennsylvania Record. “And I think that this outcome is a very good example of them striving to strike a balance. From our perspective, we think they have found an appropriate balance at this time.”

With the recent attention on nursing homes resulting from the death of H.R. McMaster, Sr., who died in the Cathedral Village nursing facility in Philadelphia, Sachs noted that this bill was brought to the House at an inopportune time.

Philadelphia Nursing Home Profited as Care Declined, Report Shows

Published on Jun 22, 2018 at 3:15 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

A recent article from the Philadelphia Inquirer is shining a spotlight on a local nursing home owner that profited despite declining care at its facilities. According to the article, nursing homes once owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia went from barely breaking even to becoming some of the most profitable nursing homes in the region after being bought by Charles-Edouard Gros. One of the nursing homes included the St. Francis Center for Rehabilitation & Healthcare.

As reported by the Inquirer, Gros-owned nursing homes comprised four of the area’s five most profitable assisted living facilities. Those profits, however, were driven by staff cuts and increased acceptance of sicker patients. As care began to decline, regulators found ample evidence of neglect and revoked St. Francis’ license, which is a step taken only in the most serious cases. They also noted an increase in incidents involving actual harm to residents since the homes were bought by Gros.

In January, officials reported on what they called “extreme” conditions at facilities like St. Francis, including a lack of nursing care, wound treatment, and a patient death which occurred during the time regulators had been conducting their investigation. That patient suffered from severe bed sores and various infections acquired during her stay at the nearly 300-bed facility in Delaware County.

Now, the poor quality of care at St. Francis and other facilities owned by Gros’ Center Management Group is forming the basis of a lawsuit filed last month. In the suit, the victim’s daughter states that although a doctor ordered facility staff to adjust the victim’s position every two hours to prevent bed sores, nursing home staff failed to follow instructions.

Medical Malpractice: C-Sections, Surgical Risks & Patient Consent

Published on Jun 19, 2018 at 3:20 pm in Birth Injury.

Doctors have a legal duty to treat patients in accordance to established medical guidelines and standards, as doing so is critical to avoiding preventable injuries. While evaluating whether a medical professional took appropriate steps to treat a patient as a reasonably skillful doctor would under the same or similar circumstances is an important part of determining whether negligence played a role in causing birth injuries, it is also important to evaluate whether or not doctors adequately discussed information about procedures and associated risks – including risks related to cesarean sections, or C-sections for short.

During pregnancy, doctors have ample opportunity to speak with and evaluate pregnant mothers, conduct testing, and prepare them for delivery. This includes an evaluation of potential risk factors and complications that would necessitate a C-section per accepted medical guidelines, including:

  • Twin births
  • Large babies, or a history of large babies
  • Placental problems
  • Chronic health conditions (diabetes, high blood pressures, etc.)
  • Infections
  • Premature labor
  • Complications during labor and delivery

Doctors have a legal duty to properly interpret test results and discussions with mothers to evaluate foreseeable risks associated with vaginal delivery. When appropriate, they should discuss the possibility of C-sections with mothers as a means to avoid and mitigate these risks, as well as risks inherent to C-section procedures themselves.

Texting Drivers Remain a Problem in Pennsylvania, But Few Receive Tickets

Published on Jun 5, 2018 at 3:23 pm in Auto Accidents.

Distracted driving has become one of America’s leading causes of preventable car accidents, injuries, and deaths. While this can include any form of risky multi-tasking – from personal grooming and eating or drinking to conversing with passengers or reading maps – it most notably includes text messaging and the use of handheld smart phones. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has cited distracted driving as a national epidemic that killed nearly 4,000 victims in 2016 alone, and which is a leading factor behind recent surges in fatal traffic accidents nationwide.

With such alarming data on distracted driving collected in recent years, many states across the country have taken steps to regulate the use of cell phones behind the wheel. This includes Pennsylvania, which enforces the following laws:

  • State law prohibits all drivers from texting while driving.
  • Motorists are prohibited from wearing headphones and earbuds while driving.
  • Talking on a handheld cell phone is illegal only for commercial drivers.

While there is a texting ban in place in Pennsylvania, it has not been very effective, nor has it been successfully enforced, according to newly released data from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. Additionally, unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not have a law regulating handheld cell phone use for non-commercial drivers, meaning cell phone use that isn’t considered texting, such as using apps, e-mail, or placing calls.

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