I-TEAM INVESTIGATES: PruittHealth’s 72 facilities in SC, GA all had Medicare/Medicaid violations

By  | 

Thursday, May 9, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

Laura Bulloch, pictured here, died at a PruittHealth facility in Georgia from a bed sore. (Source: WRDW)

NORTH AUGUSTA, SC (WRDW/WAGT) – Earlier this week, we introduced to you the story of Laura Bulloch, a 56-year-old woman who died from a stage four chronic acute pressure sore on her back.

Bulloch was a patient at PruittHealth Augusta Hills, and her family believes a lack of care led to her death.

Bulloch’s family is not the only family blaming a PruittHealth facility for the death of their loved one.

The company operates more than a hundred skilled nursing homes throughout the southeast, including four in the CSRA.

PruittHealth nursing homes are certified by the federal government, which means the facilities must meet certain requirements, such as maintaining a minimum staff to patient ratio and creating individualized care plans for patients.

Patients at risk for bed sores would have a care plan that would include turning them every few hours. Bulloch’s sore, as mentioned before, killed her, according to medical reports.

“My sister was suffering,” Mary McClain, Bulloch’s sister, said. “She was suffering, and I don’t know how long.”

The same year Bulloch moved to Augusta Hills, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, cited the facility for failing to follow physician's orders. An inspector also witnessed staff not turning a patient at risk for sores for 5 1/2 hours.

The next day, the inspector observed staff once again not turning the same patient. A few months after this inspection, Ruby Mae Dent, another patient at the facility, died. A lawsuit states she had an infected stage four ulcer -- the same as Bulloch. The lawsuit alleges Augusta Hills made "budgetary, and administrative decisions that were determined more by the financial needs and goals than by nursing needs of residents."

Medicare cited Augusta Hills again the following year, claiming staffing is below average and quality of care is much below average.

MOBILE USERS: Click here to see PruittHealth inspection data from 2018.

MOBILE USERS: Click here to see PruittHealth inspection data from 2017.

MOBILE USERS: Click here to see PruittHealth inspection data from 2016.

"The reality is a lot of those agencies are all understaffed,” Dent family attorney Caleb Conner said.

Our I-Team examined inspection reports for every Pruitt-owned skilled nursing facility in Georgia and South Carolina. Inspectors have found violations in all of the 72 nursing homes. The average for Medicare's overall star rating for the 72 facilities is a 2.47. Medicaid denied only one facility a payment.

Neil Pruitt, CEO of PruittHealth, is also politically connected. He, his family, and boards he and his employees serve or have served on donated more than $80,000 to former Gov. Nathan Deal's campaign. Pruitt was on Deal's Inaugural Committee. Deal also appointed him to the Board of Regents. Deal's former chief of staff is now a lobbyist for Pruitt.

"If there was a child that came out of a daycare looking like this, there would be people marching the streets,” Conner said. “But with our elderly, unfortunately, it’s a pass."

But Bulloch was only 56 years old. Disabled, but not elderly.

“Hurt – you know – that hurt,” McClain said. “That big hole? They did that to my sister.”

In the end, there’s nothing that will heal the hole left in hearts of Bulloch’s family.

PruittHealth released a statement in response to our recent reporting, saying they deliver "high quality healthcare to all of our patients, especially those who seek our care while in medically fragile conditions."

"We maintain rigorous patient safety standards and are conducting a thorough internal review of their cases," the statement said. "While we cannot make comments at this time out of respect for these patients’ privacy, we do offer condolences to those who are mourning the loss of a loved one.”

Copyright 2019 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved