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As much as we would like to believe that nursing homes strive to provide quality care, this is not always the case. For many facilities, profits are placed before resident care with staffing typically the area affected. Under-staffing in nursing homes has been an increasing problem nationwide leading to residents suffering from an increased risk of infection, bed sores, dehydration, and malnutrition.

In 2013, the State of Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration placed Consulate Health Care on its “watch list” for not meeting state standards, including failing to comply with the state’s minimum staffing standards. Reports showed that two-thirds of Consulate’s nursing homes operating in Florida were chronically understaffed, leading to nearly $2 million in federal and state fines over the last three years. Now, the nursing home has been hit with several wrongful death lawsuits. Among the most recent are claims that patients died due to inadequate care. The lawsuits allege that staffing was based on a per-resident, per-day budget rather than staffed to meet the actual needs of residents. The claims contend that decisions regarding which residents would be admitted was driven not by whether the nursing home could meet the residents’ needs, but by the amount the company would profit.

Resident #1:
•A resident of Consulate Health Care of Winter Haven from Feb. 14, 2014, until her discharge on March 5.
•Died five days after being discharged.
•Developed an infection and dehydration.
•A wrongful death lawsuit claims the resident was not adequately evaluated to prevent dehydration or infection.

Resident #2:
•A resident of Consulate Health Care of Lakeland died five weeks after breaking her hip.
•A wrongful death lawsuit contends that staff members did not take proper precautions to prevent the woman from falling. The lawsuit also alleges that staff didn’t “adequately and appropriately manage” the woman’s care to prevent an unnecessary decline in her condition.

Resident #3:
•A resident at Consulate Health Care of Lake Parker in Lakeland from Aug. 20, 2013, until her discharge three days later.
•Developed a bedsore, abnormally low blood sugar, and gangrene of the right foot, leading to a below-the-knee amputation.
•Became malnourished and dehydrated, went into kidney failure, and had lower than normal blood pressure.
•Died on Nov. 25, 2013.
•A lawsuit alleges that due to under-staffing, the resident was not properly monitored for significant signs and symptoms of infection.

Consulate has individual licensees for each nursing center, but each facility is managed by Consulate Managing Co.

Identifying the real culprit at the root of nursing home abuse is no easy task. Today, many nursing homes are a part of large chains of public corporations that typically hold many locations in one or more states. The nursing home operates under “different” corporations that claim to be unrelated. One will “own” the nursing home, one will “manage” it, one will serve as a “third party consultant” and one will be the “insurance provider.” In reality, all the corporations are owned by the same group and all profits eventually flow to the investors. Staffing is sadly where the profits are made. Nursing homes pack their facilities with high-needs patients and under-staff the facility, leading to neglect, infections, bed sores, unexplained falls, broken hips, and more. When negligence occurs and a lawsuit is filed, these corporations make it difficult for plaintiffs to seek justice because of their complex corporate structure that obscures who controls the nursing homes.

If you believe that you or someone you love has suffered abuse or neglect, immediately contact the following agencies: law enforcement, the licensing and regulatory agency, and adult protective services. That is going to be the only way to enact change.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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