Erlanger nursing home to pay $350,000, enhance care

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comFebruary 25, 2013 

An Erlanger nursing home will pay $350,000 and enhance the care it provides as part of settlement agreement with the federal government, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Monday.

The settlement resolves False Claims Act allegations against Villaspring Health Care and Rehabilitation and Carespring in a lawsuit filed in July 2011, U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Kyle Edelen said in a news release.

In the 2011 complaint, the U.S. Attorney's Office alleged that Villaspring provided services from 2004 to 2008 that resulted in the deaths of five residents and injuries to others.

The case against Villaspring Health Care and Rehabilitation; Villaspring's parent company, Carespring Health Care Management; and its owner is the first suit filed in Kentucky in which the government alleged that a nursing home defrauded Medicare and Medicaid by submitting bills for reimbursement while providing systemically poor resident care.

In cases where there is a systemic failure of care, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky Kerry B. Harvey said in an interview Monday, "this ... will be an important tool to ensure that residents of long-term care facilities get the care that we would all agree is appropriate."

The settlement ensures that the U.S. Attorney's Office is kept apprised of the enhanced care during the next three years, the release said.

Villaspring and Carespring will retain an independent consultant approved by the U.S. Attorney's Office that will collaborate with Villaspring and Carespring on enhancements to its patient care and provide quarterly reports to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Villaspring, and Carespring, the news release said.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokeswoman Beth Fisher said there have been no Type A citations or other adverse actions taken against the facility since at least 2011. The Type A citation, the state's most serious, indicates a resident's life or safety has been endangered because of violations of state regulations.

"Although we have always believed the lawsuit against us was unwarranted, it is in the best interest of Villaspring, its employees and residents to settle this matter and move on; we have agreed to disagree on this matter," said Carespring spokeswoman and vice president Kim Majick.

"Villaspring has consistently provided high quality care to the residents of Northern Kentucky, achieving four- and five-star ratings from the regulators, and looks forward to continuing that care in the future," Majick said.

The 2011 complaint alleged that from 2004 to 2008, numerous patients suffered serious injuries; five of those patients died. Some of the residents who died went days without baths; they weren't given enough to drink; and their pressure sores were not treated, leading to fatal infections, the complaint alleged.

In one case, a woman was admitted to Villaspring in November 2004 after a fall and subsequent surgery for a broken hip. When she was admitted, she was alert and had no history of incontinence. But nursing home staff put her in adult diapers. She developed bed sores that became so infected her left leg had to be amputated above the knee. She died of a blood infection on March 31, 2005, the complaint said.

The alleged inadequate care included failure to follow physicians' orders, failure to treat wounds and pressure sores, failure to update resident care plans, and failure to monitor the blood-sugar levels of diabetic residents.

In 2010, the Herald-Leader reported that a June 2007 state citation against Villaspring of Erlanger said a resident developed sepsis when the home didn't monitor pressure ulcers. In December 2007, nursing home officials were cited by the state for failing to monitor a resident's dose of Coumadin, a drug that prevents blood clots.

After investigating allegations about Villaspring of Erlanger, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway referred the allegations to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409.Twitter: @vhspears.

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