Over the last several months, ABC27 has uncovered disturbing violations in Golden Living nursing homes in Central Pennsylvania. Inspection reports show filth, medication errors, delayed medical treatment, even live maggots in a resident’s feeding tube.
Each time ABC27 has asked about those violations, Golden Living has released statements saying they have been fixed. On Tuesday, Golden Living held a news conference to announce a wage increase for most of its certified nursing assistants.
The president of the organization, Julianne Williams, also referenced a “renewed focus” on “enhancing the quality of care for residents and patients.”
Reporter Amanda St. Hilaire asked several questions about that care. The following is a transcript of the exchange:
Amanda St. Hilaire/ABC27 News: So, with this discussion about the importance of a pathway to $15 per hour, the attorney general, the Department of Health, the auditor general and our news organization have received complaints about GoldenLiving facilities not having enough staff to properly care for patients, so will there be consideration going forward for hiring more staff members?
Julianne Williams/President of GoldenLiving Centers: Again today, what we wanted to reiterate was the commitment we have to our team, our staff, that takes care of the residents, and you can see that we are making every effort to be the front-runner in the state to make GoldenLiving the number one employer. So, that is our commitment and we will hold steadfast to that, obviously. I understand that you have complaints, but we’re going to move forward and really think about how we can take care of our professionals and support and lift up the people taking care of the residents.
St. Hilaire: So going forward it’s a possibility?
Williams: We always meet the state standards. It’s our goal always to meet all of the requirements, and again we’re going to continue to invest because we want to be the best employer in the state of Pennsylvania for health care workers.
St. Hilaire: The press release mentions a renewed focus on enhancing the quality of care for residents. When did that renewed focus begin?
Williams: Well, personally, I’ve always been focused on that, and I believe our company, GoldenLiving, has as well. In terms of renewing, what I would say we’re doing is making sure we have all the right partnerships so that our residents get the best of everything. For example, having a partnership with SEIU gives us the opportunity to again work towards a path for $15. It also allows us to access and work with them on a training fund and get great training for our employees, more than anyone else will give, and as we continue to invest in our employees, everything will come together. I believe when our employees are happy and they can take care of the residents, everything else just falls into place. And that is our quality.
St. Hilaire: I have here several of the DOH inspections from three Midstate facilities just over the last three months, and they show violations such as quote “very strong” odors of urine and feces, feces on a shower chair, on a lift chair, covering toilet bowls, dirty wheelchairs, staff giving residents higher dosages of medications than prescribed by physicians, a case when a resident’s medication went missing and the incident was not reported to the DOH and neither was person suspected of taking care of the medication, a resident not receiving hospice care a doctor ordered, not receiving supplements a doctor ordered, a facility “failing to provide services that met professional standards of practice,” “failing to ensure food was stored, prepared and served under sanitary conditions,” failing to conduct neuro checks after resident falls, a facility “failing to ensure care and services to promote healing and prevent infection of pressure sores,” the facility failing to notify a resident’s wife that he was referred to hospice, not documenting medical information correctly, medication carts left unlocked, dirty oxygen tank filters, failing to notify a physician of significant weight gain for a resident. These are all just within the last three months, including an inspection that was made public today. So I guess my question for you is with this “renewed focus” how do you explain this list of violations just at three Midstate facilities in the last three months?
Williams: Sure, thank you for asking that question. It’s – the reality is the skilled nursing facility sector is the second-most highly regulated business in the United States. The only type of profession or industry that is more highly regulated is nuclear power, so we have many many regulations that we follow every day, and so when we do become aware of deficient practices, as mentioned in those statements of deficiencies, we correct them. We take it very seriously. We have a quality assurance process that we use and we address each and every one of them, not only for the resident that may have been involved, but for everyone that lives in or resides for a short period of time in our living centers.
St. Hilaire: The notes on these inspection reports do show that most of these are repeat violations and, in fact, the two Camp Hill facilities, between the two of them have at least 16 non-compliant inspections reports over the last two years, so at what point do those stop becoming isolated incidents and start becoming patterns?
Williams: So, I think that if you reviewed the 2567’s you’re looking at, the statements of deficiencies, for all nursing home providers across the United States, you would find that our very stringent inspection process, which we welcome, helps us identify opportunities for improvement, and that’s what those are. We take them very seriously, and we correct them, and we are then deemed back in status by the Department of Health. It’s a process of continuous improvement, so while nothing is ever perfect, we always strive to do the very best work for our residents every day.
St. Hilaire: Would you classify an odor of urine and feces as an area of improvement?
Williams: To not get into how everything works in a nursing home, I will say this: we’re all humans and we all have personal things that occur during the day, just like in your home. If someone goes into the restroom and uses the bathroom for a few minutes, there might be an odor and then in time it passes and then it wasn’t there. S I lift up my caregivers, and I will say this: we have an amazing group of people employed by GoldenLiving Centers who work very hard to take care of people that nobody else will take care of and they love them and they treat them like their own family, and I again lift them up for admirable work that’s very, very hard.
St. Hilaire: So going back to that question about staffing then, are you going to consider going forward more staff to support the people you have working, so there’s more time to be spent with each individual patient, to ensure that these violations don’t continue, as they have been continuing for several years, according to the DOH? Are you saying these lists of violations are comparable to other nursing home facilities in the area?
Williams: I can tell that you have a lot of questions. Rather than addressing this in a press conference, I would love to sit down with you on a one-on-one basis.
We have to navigate very closely how we invest our very finite resources. And I hope you can see that we are investing in the one place we should all agree is important, and that is the staff that takes are of our residents and patients.