Elder-care home sees high number of complaints despite ownership change

Despite a change in ownership at Mountain View Care Center of Carson City, the elder-care home has received 26 complaints this year involving staffing problems, resident feeding, care and dignity issues.

Evergreen Health Care, a national chain, purchased the 146-bed facility on Koontz Lane in December with promises of bringing a new care system and training. The Washington-based company owns five centers in the state and 60 other facilities in Washington, Oregon, California, Utah and Montana.

The state Health Department division has met with administrator Doug McCoy of Evergreen and is encouraged with plans for improvements, said Nadine Howard, with the Bureau of Licensure and Certification.

But the number of complaints are more than average.

"In the last month or so, we've had a higher volume than normal," Howard said. "We've had 10 since July."

The most recent complaint was phoned in by a resident's son who noticed his father fell often at the care home. Staff failed to call him about the falls. The caller also complained about the appearance of the facility and said it had gone "downhill" since Evergreen took over, Howard said.

Investigators found the man had lost his glasses and staff failed to get approval for the past four months for new glasses. The facility was cited for the quality of care, Howard said.

"We felt (the falls) could have been prevented if he was provided with glasses," she said.

A complaint received in August found some patients were left for periods of time with food hanging on their faces after meals and some were waiting up to 25 minutes for food because of a shortage of staff. Citations were issued for dignity issues.

In one resident's case, "food was left on her face and plenty of staff was around. Nobody wiped off her mouth," Howard said.

Investigators also observed a resident who was not given heel protectors to prevent further wounds on her feet and heels after staff forgot to put them on, then did not give sufficient medication for pain when dressings were changed. The woman cried out and was in obvious pain.

Complaints have also been received about pay cuts and staffing issues, but the health department doesn't deal with labor issues, Howard said.

Before the change in ownership, Mountain View Health Care Center received 33 deficiencies during its last annual inspection in October and was placed on a national watch list for causing actual harm to a patient.

At that time, investigators found staff was using too many physical restraints and failed to obtain consent for the constraints.

"In some cases, people fell out of bed over the siderails, but nobody got hurt," Howard said. They also had a problem with infection control by failing to develop policies and procedures to prevent the spread of infections.

On the other hand, Carson City Health & Rehabilitation on North Ormsby, also owned by Evergreen, received a good evaluation in March, Howard said. Deficiencies had been reduced from 24 to 17 in a year and no actions resulted in actual harm to patients, Howard said. The center has received 12 complaints this year.

"Our survey for 2003 was half the deficiencies as the year before," administrator McCoy said. "They've improved significantly."

McCoy said he has put a plan together and is building a new management team at the Mountain View center.

"Our biggest focus is trying to roll out the systems and processes of our company versus what was here before," McCoy said. "We're continuing to focus on recruiting and retention of staff. There are some challenges with that."

Retaining and hiring staff is a problem in the area, state department officials also said.

"The health care industry in general has a higher level of turnover than other professions," McCoy said. "Because of the growing population in Nevada and the growing need, there is a lot of competition for staff."


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