Nursing Home Decides Not to Report Death for Fear of “Bad Press”

The Braemoor Health Center is a Brockton, Massachusetts nursing home and one of eleven Massachusetts nursing homes owned by Synergy Health Centers of New Jersey.  Following surprise visits to the Braemoor nursing home on June 30 and July 1, 2016, regulators found conditions at the nursing home were so troubling that residents were in “immediate jeopardy.”

As reported by the Boston Globe, the facility was fined $200,000, prohibited from accepting new patients, and subjected to the freezing of federal payments.

The Boston Globe further reported that in the state investigation, it was found that nursing home staff did not have adequate training to revive a patient with dementia who was suffering from a heart attack, and who subsequently died.  Thereafter, staff decided not to report the death because the resident did not have any family.  Additionally, the facility’s administrator reportedly declined to report the death because of a concern about causing “bad press” for parent company Synergy Health.

Synergy Health, meanwhile, was recovering from what regulators termed unusually steep fines in April following the deaths of two residents at another one of its facilities.  Both Synergy Health and Braemoor are reportedly taking corrective actions at their respective facilities.

What is the Significance of These Events? 

Nursing home regulators are charged with fully investigating nursing home conditions.  In particular, they will be concerned with conditions and procedures that may pose an immediate threat to the welfare of residents.  In these cases, corrective action must be promptly taken; otherwise the facilities can be hit with fines, or even closed.

It is particularly troubling if nursing homes avoid complying with regulations because it will make them look bad.  Moreover, it is disturbing when nursing home staff believe that residents are not entitled to the same treatment if they do not have a family.

What Can Be Done When Nursing Homes Fail to Comply with Reporting Requirements Concerning Patient Death?

Fines and potential closure are certainly one step in the right direction towards compliance.  Unfortunately, often the fines and risk of closure are small compared to the potential benefits of not reporting certain required information concerning patient death.

This must change.

 

Additionally, we believe that the parent companies, who often own many (and sometimes, dozens) of facilities, should face punitive fines in accordance with their financial size and the severity of the matter at hand.  Such action will help to better facilitate the reporting process and, most importantly, should lead to better resident care.


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