ANNAPOLIS-The state revoked the Medicare and Medicaid certification of its second nursing home in three months – part of a larger crackdown on such facilities.
Citing a consistent record of unsafe conditions and poor quality of care, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ordered Windsor Ridge Nursing Center in Baltimore County to begin relocating its 55 residents. The move began Thursday.
The decision to decertify Windsor Ridge comes at the end of six months of surveys during which nursing home inspectors found evidence that the center failed to monitor the health of several ailing residents, resulting in hospitalization.
Similar conditions were found at the Greenbelt Nursing and Rehabilitation Center that closed in January. In a state where in the past decade fewer than a dozen homes have been closed, the closing of two homes in such a short period of time has caused alarm in the state agency.
Inspectors noted a failure by Windsor Ridge to notify a physician about a patient’s abnormal lab results. As a result, the resident was hospitalized. The center also neglected to notify a physician on two occasions about another resident’s fluid retention and weight gain. That resident also was hospitalized.
Yet another resident was sent to the hospital for treatment of low blood sugar when the center failed to monitor the person’s blood glucose level after administering a large dose of insulin. Three other residents were hospitalized because of dehydration and urinary tract infections.
Windsor Ridge officials did not return telephone calls yesterday. Representatives of Trinity Retirement Inc., which owns the center, also could not be reached.
Wednesday night, residents and their families met with state officials and nursing home representatives to answer questions regarding the moving process. The patients and families were given a list of nursing homes from which to choose.
The department and the nursing home have made every effort to accommodate special preferences and needs of residents and to make the move as smooth as possible, said Carol Benner, director of Licensing and Certification in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The experience can be traumatic and the departments want to do everything possible to ease the move, said Patricia Bayliss, the state’s long-term care ombudsman.
The closings are a result of stricter federal regulations. In July, 1998, President Bill Clinton announced legislative changes to improve the quality of nursing homes nationwide. Included in his initiative was a crackdown on homes with repeat offenses.
Federal officials instituted the more stringent standards because homes were allowed too much leeway. Verbal and physical abuse was widespread and the health needs of residents were ignored. Under Clinton’s initiative, grace periods, once permitted to correct problems and avoid penalties, were terminated.
Nursing homes have been under pressure to comply since the new standards were announced. The federal government gave the homes 180 days to bring their facilities up to par and keep them at that level. For the most part, Maryland facilities have managed to do so. Each day more long-term care facilities come into compliance, Benner said, but there are three or four that are still in danger of closing.
“The bar was raised,” Benner has said. “We went from zero to 100 percent required compliance. We are still in the process of learning what the new rules are.”