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Because They’re Wreckable

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When private equity looters take over department store chains, the results are generally disastrous for most of the people concerned. When they take over nursing homes, it’s even worse:

To the state inspectors visiting the HCR Manor­Care nursing home here last year, the signs of neglect were conspicuous. A disabled man who had long, dirty fingernails told them he was tended to “once in a blue moon.” The bedside “call buttons” were so poorly staffed that some residents regularly soiled themselves while waiting for help to the bathroom. A woman dying of uterine cancer was left on a bedpan for so long that she bruised.

The lack of care had devastating consequences. One man had been dosed with so many opioids that he had to be rushed to a hospital, according to the inspection reports. During an undersupervised bus trip to church — one staff member was escorting six patients who could not walk without help — a resident flipped backward on a wheelchair ramp and suffered a brain hemorrhage.

When a nurse’s aide who should have had a helper was trying to lift a paraplegic woman, the woman fell and fractured her hip, her head landing on the floor beneath her roommate’s bed.

“It was horrible — my mom would call us every day crying when she was in there,” said Debbie Bojo, whose mother was treated at ManorCare’s Pottsville facility in September 2016. “It was dirty — like a run-down motel. Roaches and ants all over the place.”

Under the ownership of the Carlyle Group, one of the richest private-equity firms in the world, the ManorCare nursing-home chain struggled financially until it filed for bankruptcy in March. During the five years preceding the bankruptcy, the second-largest nursing-home chain in the United States exposed its roughly 25,000 patients to increasing health risks, according to inspection records analyzed by The Washington Post.

The number of health-code violations found at the chain each year rose 26 percent between 2013 and 2017, according to a Post review of 230 of the chain’s retirement homes. Over that period, the yearly number of health-code violations at company nursing homes rose from 1,584 to almost 2,000. The number of citations increased for, among other things, neither preventing nor treating bed sores; medication errors; not providing proper care for people who need special services such as injections, colostomies and prostheses; and not assisting patients with eating and personal hygiene.

Counting only the more serious violations, those categorized as “potential for more than minimal harm,” “immediate jeopardy” and “actual harm,” The Post found the number of HCR ManoCare violations rose 29 percent in the years before the bankruptcy filing.

The rise in health-code violations at the chain began after Carlyle and investors completed a 2011 financial deal that extracted $1.3 billion from the company for investors but also saddled the chain with what proved to be untenable financial obligations, according to interviews and financial documents. Under the terms of the deal, HCR ManorCare sold nearly all of the real estate in its nursing-home empire and then agreed to pay rent to the new owners.

Taking the money out of ManorCare constrained company finances. Shortly after the maneuver, the company announced hundreds of layoffs. In a little over a year, some nursing homes were not making enough to pay rent. Over the next several years, cost-cutting programs followed, according to financial statements obtained by The Post.

Because this is America in 2018, the pirates responsible are not merely among its most reprehensible citizens but among its best-compensated. The top priority of the current Congress was to given them a massive tax cut.

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