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Beverly Enterprises - Poster Child Of Fraud And Neglect In Nursing Home Industry

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Message Evelyn Pringle
Nowhere in the nursing home industry is the corruption, patient neglect and abuse and Medicare and Medicaid fraud more blatant than within the giant nursing home chain of Beverly Enterprises. Based in Fort Smith, Arkansa it reportedly operates more than 400 nursing facilities, assisted living centers and hospices in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

The chain was supposedly sold a few months back, but a little digging under the layers of the conglomerate would probably find Beverly in there somewhere.

As far back as October 18, 1986, the New York Times reported a Beverly settlement with the State Department of Health Services, with an agreement to pay more than $600,000 in civil penalties as the result of an investigation of several of the company's California facilities. The agreement stated that no new licenses would be issued to Beverly for a 14-month period.

However, this comment by Beverly CEO, Robert Van Tuyle, at the time is comforting. He told the Times, "the state allegations of deaths related to patient care had not been proved," and "that the incidents were isolated cases."

Jumping forward to February 2001, the US Justice Department's San Francisco office and the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced the largest settlement ever for fraud in a nursing home case.

Beverly Enterprises Inc, it said, the parent company of Beverly Healthcare, the nation's largest nursing home chain, has agreed to pay a civil settlement fine of $170 million and to relinquish control of 10 nursing homes in California. Their subsidiary, Beverly-California, will pay a $5 million criminal fine settlement.

Beverly-California pleaded guilty to one criminal count of fraud and 10 counts of making false statements to Medicare.

A point should be made that the settlement included a corporate integrity agreement that provided for a reporting and compliance program to be overseen by the Office of Inspector General. As part of the agreement, Beverly agreed to insure that its nursing homes complied with all federal regulations including the regulations under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA)

These OBRA regulations impose numerous requirements on Beverly in its resident care including requirements regarding the following: (a) Reporting resident injuries of unknown origin to state authorities; (b) Resident assessment and care planning; ┬ę Food services and nutrition; (d) Diabetes and wound care; (e) Infection control; (f) Abuse and neglect policies and reporting procedures; (g) Staffing; (h) Appropriate drug therapies; (I) Appropriate mental health services; (j) Provision of basic care needs; (k) Incontinence care; (l) Resident rights and restraint use; (m) Activities of daily living care; (n) Therapy services; (o) Quality of life, including accommodation of needs and activities; and (p) Assessment of patient competence to make treatment decisions.

A review of the continuous train of charges against Beverly in the years following the signing of the integrity agreement proves that the document was a complete waste of tax dollar funded clerical resources.

Five months after it was signed, in July 2001, the Associated Press reported that the nation's largest operator of nursing homes, will pay $1.2 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit. Nine former workers claimed that black employees were harassed and subjected to discrimination and racial slurs at the Bridgeton Nursing Center in north St. Louis County, which Beverly owned at the time.

About a year after that, on August 1, 2002, in California's Santa Barbara County Superior Court, Deputy District Attorney Tracy Grossman filed a two-count felony criminal complaint against Beverly.

The two felony counts involved former patients, Laura Simmons, a 102-year-old woman who died in July 2000, and William Marthai, an 86-year-old man who died a year later.

In addition to the two criminal complaints, a civil complaint was filed alleging more than two dozen violations of state and federal codes involving patient care.

Although Ms. Simmon's death certificate said she died from congestive heart failure and extremely high blood pressure, the investigation found that at the time of her death, she suffered from malnutrition, anorexia, bed sores, body tremors, open wounds and a maggot infestation of her foot.

Mr. Marthai died after a feeding tube was improperly inserted into his stomach by a vocational nurse and by the time he was finally taken to the hospital, the report said, his stomach had swelled to the size of someone 7 or eight months' pregnant and was as hard as a rock.

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Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America.
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