Health Dept. to make changes after nursing homes lawsuit

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania’s Department of Health says it will make changes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the attorney general’s office against Golden Living nursing homes across the state.

“Clearly there’s a problem that the department has and we’re going to try to fix it statewide,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.

DePasquale told ABC 27 the Department of Health approached him for an audit of how the agency handles nursing home complaints. Many families in the Midstate say they filed complaints against Golden Living nursing homes in Harrisburg, Camp Hill and Gettysburg, but never heard anything about results.

“Something potentially has gone wrong in that facility to a loved one, and people took the time to go to this website because that’s what the state government has told them to do,” DePasquale said. “So, if there’s no follow-up on that, it’s a significant problem.”

“Our audit is going to be a completely different function,” DePasquale added. “So, they had to be willing to live with the results, whatever they may be.”

The attorney general’s office says several Golden Living nursing home facilities forced residents to live in unhygienic conditions and denied access to promised, quality care.

ABC 27 discovered hundreds of pages of Department of Health deficiency reports for Golden Living nursing homes in the Midstate just over the last year.

The Health Department released a statement, saying it is putting together a task force to find better ways to implement quality care. A spokeswoman could not discuss the Golden Living lawsuit, but said closing a nursing home can be disruptinve for patients and their families, which is why a facility must show a pattern of noncompliance before it is closed.

The issue goes beyond Golden Living facilities.

“Time will tell as to how many,”DePasquale said, “but there’s no question it is a major issue.”

ABC 27 filed a right to know request and discovered that last year, 58 people in Pennsylvania nursing homes died from injuries, suicide, or other unusual circumstances. Twenty-nine people died from malnutrition, dehydration, or sepsis. Four people died from medication errors or bad medication reactions, and there were 9,822 transfers or admissions to hospitals because of injuries and accidents.

DePasquale says he hopes suggestions in his audit will help lower those numbers.

“The goal is to have a system in place that all Pennsylvanians can be comfortable is doing the best job they can to ensure our seniors are getting the best care they deserve,” he said.

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