A nursing home in Massachusetts has been slapped, yet again, with a scandal involving a dead patient and an incompetent, undertrained staff. The incident, which happened in April, is just the latest in a string of controversies surrounding Synergy Health Centers, a New Jersey based company that owns dozens of nursing homes around the country, including 11 in Massachusetts.
According to the Boston Globe, nurses and aides working at the Braemoor Health Center in Brockton failed to revive a dementia patient who was suffering from a heart attack. Despite a team of nurses on staff, not 1 administered CPR to the patient. Now, a state investigation is blaming the man’s death — and a number of others — on insufficient staff training.
But the infractions did not end there. After the patient’s death, officials neglected to report the incident to the state health department because the patient “had no family.” Maybe worst of all, the facility’s administrator said they decided against reporting the death because of recent “bad press” involving the nursing home’s parent company, Synergy.
Immediate Jeopardy: The Nursing Home’s Perpetual Condition
Just last month, state regulators warned residents of Braemoor Health Center that they are in “immediate jeopardy” and may suffer “serious injury, harm, impairment, or death.” The facility was ordered to stop accepting new patients and fined $200,000.
The notice was given following an investigation that uncovered several accidental or avoidable deaths at the Brockton nursing home.
In March, a patient with a history of drug abuse, anxiety, and depression was discharged from the facility and found dead 2 days later from an apparent opioid overdose. The patient was a partial amputee who was in chronic pain and considered a potential suicide risk, but, despite his circumstances, Braemoor’s nursing staff placed the man on a heavy regimen of painkillers as soon as he was admitted. As the Globe reports, state investigators found no evidence that nursing staff assessed the (fairly obvious) risks associated with the use of opioid medications on a patient with this kind of history.
Synergy: A Truly Dangerous Company
These cases, above, are just two items in a laundry list of infractions dating back years.
In 2014, Braemoor was tallying infractions at a rate 3.5 times that of other nursing homes in Massachusetts. And if you think the Brockton nursing home is alone in its conduct, think again.
A separate Synergy-owned nursing home in Wilmington, Massachusetts, has shown an equally appalling level of negligence, clumsiness, and incompetence in the realm of patient care. In the span of just 4 months earlier this year, the home saw the deaths of 2 elderly patients at the hands of improperly trained staff members.
One 83-year-old woman died of internal bleeding after suffering a fall that nurses apparently did not think bad enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. The other died after falling out of bed and being left unattended for an entire night.
When incidents like this become commonplace, you can no longer chalk it up to freak accident or unique tragedy. This is a pervasive problem, and responsibility stems from the brand in charge: Synergy. This is the organization responsible for hiring and training its staff members, and for cultivating an environment that is conducive to the health and comfort of patients. Clearly, they are failing.
That said, when it comes to lining its own pockets, Synergy seems to have things under wraps. The organization has been accused of underfunding nursing homes in order to dish out surpluses to executives. In 2012, the company purchased a $25,000 suite at Gillette Stadium for the sole purpose of persuading doctors and executives to refer more patients to their homes.
(And by the way, this shady practice is not unique to Synergy. A 2012 federal investigation found nursing homes throughout the U.S. collectively over-bill Medicare by a stunning $1.5 Billion per year for treatments patients either do not need or never even receive.)
Despite the fishiness of the whole situation, Synergy claims to be taking steps in the right direction. In response to the most recent report, the company released a statement claiming they “submitted an extensive plan of correction to [the health department], which addresses all of the issues raised in their report.”
“We have already begun to implement a number of the actions outlined in the report and the entire team is focused on assuring that our residents receive high quality, compassionate care,” the statement added.
We’ll just have to wait and see.