I-TEAM: Nursing home abuse and neglect allegations filed as 'information only' reports

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Monday, Jan. 13, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

(Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) – Reports of nursing home staff slapping patients, calling them names, and leaving them in their own filth all day.

More often than not, the reports made to law enforcement are taken only for the record. Patients are left relying on the facility itself to report claims of abuse and neglect to state and federal agencies.

We compared police reports at one local nursing home with federal reports over the same 12-month period. What we uncovered is reports going to law enforcement are often for information only.

Let’s talk about the case of Sharee Parson’s father, Glenn. According to Sharee, he is no longer the man he once was.

"He can't pick up his own hands to wipe his tears if he cries,” Sharee said.

Glenn is dependent on the staff at PruittHealth for everything from a shave to dry underclothes. It’s a situation, considering the type of man Glenn is, that breaks Sharee’s heart.

“Oh, it shatters my heart because my daddy just called day before yesterday,” Sharee said. “He probably – he knew he was going to die there.”

Glenn told one of our photographers that he laid in his own filth for hours – helpless.

“One day, I stayed wet about 9 hours,” Glenn said. “That’s why I called police.”

Sharee called North Augusta Public Safety on behalf of her father. The report is listed as "info only" and the officer immediately closed the case. It was never investigated as neglect. There was no investigation.

The news is shocking to Sharee -- shocking because neglect is a punishable offense like abuse.
Staff is required to report those allegations to law enforcement.

In fact, a staff member called police after Glenn made a similar complaint about lying in his own waste for too long the previous year. Staff member stated she "wanted the incident documented."

But like the other one, this was listed as information only -- not neglect.

We looked 12 months of police reports. In one report, a nurse allegedly hit and slapped a patient with pressure sores. It's listed as a medical complaint.

In another, an employee allegedly berated a patient, calling her “ugly ugly” while taking picture to show her just how ugly she is. It's information only, too.

Then there’s another where the family member of a patient reported overhearing an employee refusing to help her sister go to the bathroom while calling her schizoid and crazy. It, too, is information only.

More than half of these 28 reports are information only.

Skilled nursing facilities are also required to notify federal and state agencies of potential abuse and neglect.

We compared federal complaint investigations with our local police reports. None matched each other. This isn't just a local problem. Last year, the inspector general determined nursing homes across the country aren't reporting potential neglect and abuse. Nursing homes are graded partially based on these investigations.

It’s almost like every agency is looking at the other agency to investigate.

“And I think that is the main reason that the legislature inacted the legislation that formulated CAVE because it recognized the fact that every single agency had its own little thing they were doing but nobody was talking to each other,” District Attorney Natalie Paine said.

Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly made its first nursing home arrest last year. CAVE operates on the Georgia side. South Carolina has no such task force.

“They don't deserve to be treated that way,” Sharee said. “To be lying in their own bowl and urine and you can smell it."

It’s hard to imagine saying goodbye to a parent at a nursing facility.

"If he gets treated that way, I can't imagine about the ones that can't talk get treated,” Sharee said.

It's even harder to imagine saying goodbye forever.

"The last thing I want is for my daddy to die down here,” Sharee said.

We talked with the public relations firm that represents PruittHealth last week. They told us they would have a statement for us before the air date. They called earlier today, saying they found where they did report the allegations to DHEC the South Carolina agency which oversees nursing homes. They told us they could not show us those reports due to privacy concerns. They also said they're unsure why the reports to the state did not make to federal agency that rates nursing homes. We have reached out to DHEC. We will let you know what the agency says.

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