Friday, February 13, 2015

What Happened to Me When I Turned to Probate Court for Help With Elder Care


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In 2011, my 80-year-old father began living in a private assisted living facility in San Antonio called Horizon Bay that cost an estimated $3,000 to $4,000 a month. It was a happy place for him until new owners acquired the residence and made it part of a larger chain of retirement homes.

The new staff and management made it difficult for friends to visit my father and did not seem to appreciate that he is a 22 year veteran of the U.S Air Force.

I was incensed at the indignities my father began to experience and was told by Adult Protective Services that I should involve the local probate court.

Read More: Veterans Medical Neglected at VA Hospitals

“A caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors is a red flag,” said Kerry Peck, attorney with Peck Bloom and author of Alzheimer’s and the Law (ABA Book Publishing, 2013). “Dehydration, unusual weight loss, poor hygiene and unsafe living conditions are others.”

On one occasion, my father was dropped off at Wilford Medical Center on Lackland Air Force Base without an escort and without any paperwork in hand. Had I not called the emergency room to check on my father, the doctors would not have known he was there to be treated for high blood pressure.

After a lawyer sent a letter threatening a wrongful death lawsuit if my father was not cared for properly, he was expelled from Horizon Bay and moved to Morningside Manor Assisted Living, where he was well-cared for until new management took over. Typically, the elderly living in government-funded retirement homes are protected under certain federal regulations.

“But if it’s a private retirement institution, it is more difficult to find a remedy under federal law,” said Phil Ross, an elder care and civil rights attorney in San Antonio.

Read More: VA Hospitals Face Possible FBI Charges

I discovered that my sugar addicted father had about 13 cavities that had not been treated and that some of his teeth had been extracted rather than filled and others were left to rot. When I complained to the patient advocacy office of the Audie Murphy VA Hospital about the lack of dental care my retired military father was receiving, I was once again guided to probate court, because being his biological daughter did not give me the authority to improve his medical care without being appointed guardian in probate court.

Little did I know how difficult it would be to find an attorney who would take on the very political probate court. Evidently, probate court and elder care is big business in states like Texas and Florida, and the sharpest of lawyers are asking $30,000 up front to represent applicants in guardianship proceedings. I found a recent graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law to represent me who was affordable.

However a month into the case, Counselor Stacey Barrus informed me that he was having a difficult time getting the probate court to cooperate in setting a hearing for a proposed order to obtain protected health information. It became clear quickly that my father would better off with a more seasoned attorney who had been in business long enough to develop the political connections that would make it easier for me to assist in his medical care.

After hours on the phone calling a dozen attorneys, I found one with a good reputation who would take monthly payments and began the process of applying to become my father’s guardian.

“There is a need for more guardians, conservators, trustees and agents partly due to the dramatic increase in the population of seniors,” said Richard Lambie, a professional guardian in California.

Read More: Professional Guardians Help Family with Elder Care Issues

It’s three years later, and still no one was appointed guardian of my father, James Edgar Fairley. As a result, in October 2014 I moved my father to New York City for medical care and filed for guardianship in Supreme Court, which yielded questionable results.

Full Article & Source:
What Happened to Me When I Turned to Probate Court for Help With Elder Care

A flood of overtime for nurses at county nursing homes


Dennis Biondo, Executive Director
A veteran nursing assistant, whose job would include bathing, feeding and dressing nursing-home residents, worked an average of 80 hours a week for nearly the entire year at the Allegheny County-owned Kane Regional Centers.

For a licensed practical nurse, giving medications and tending to the wounds of 30 or more residents would be common. Does that get trickier near the end of a 12- to 16-hour shift, a norm for many of the LPNs employed by Kane?

Charged with considering a resident’s entire medical history during care, one registered nurse worked the equivalent of about 90 eight-hour overtime shifts in both 2012 and 2013.

That's just a slice of about 125,000 hours of overtime worked by the nursing staff of the four Kane nursing homes in each of those two years, according to county salary data analyzed by PublicSource.

Kane doesn’t limit overtime worked by its employees, according to Executive Director Dennis Biondo. That includes nursing staff on the front lines of caring for Kane’s 940 elderly and disabled residents, the vast majority of whom are low income and supported by Medicaid.

Nursing-home industry experts said that, while frequent overtime is common in the field, it has the potential to compromise the quality of care, leaving fatigued caregivers in situations that could have serious consequences.

“Presumably they’re not at their optimal best having to work that much,” said Joe Angelelli, a gerontologist and assistant professor at Robert Morris University. “It leads to conflict and errors, even injuries.”

The Institute of Medicine recommended that states block nursing staff from working more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period and more than 60 hours in a week “to reduce error-producing fatigue,” according to a handbook written in 2008.

The book cites studies that say extended work shifts and frequent overtime are “associated with difficulties staying awake on duty, reduced sleep times, and nearly triple the risk of making an error.”

Three of the four Kane nursing homes have below average ratings on the national five-star rating system, Nursing Home Compare. But there is no direct evidence that the use of overtime at the Kane centers has led to any specific errors or incidents.

“I haven’t seen that as being a problem,” Biondo said. “Do folks make mistakes? Yeah. But I don’t see that when someone makes a mistake it’s because they just worked a double shift.”

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said recently there’s been an over-reliance on overtime in county government.

“The consistent overtime shows that you are running the operation with fewer resources than is appropriate,” she said.

The Kane Regional Centers — located in Pittsburgh, McKeesport and Ross and Scott townships — had more overtime costs than any other county department, but they also have the highest number of employees, with more than 1,000 working full-time.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and County Manager William McKain declined to comment on the PublicSource findings. Fitzgerald is responsible for the administration of all county departments and McKain supervises the departments, according to the county’s home rule charter.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs said in an email statement: “Costs at all of our facilities in the county are constantly being monitored and measured by the county manager and his staff, and he will continue to do so moving forward.”

Downs declined to speak to the issue of how overtime might affect quality of care at Kane.

Kane employees earned about $6.4 million in overtime pay in both 2012 and 2013, according to county salary figures. But its not clear that hiring more workers would be cheaper than paying overtime.

To cover the overtime hours worked by nursing assistants alone, the county could hire about 45 full-time workers. That would cost roughly $2.3 million, slightly less than they spent in overtime.

The Kane staff also earned $3.34 million in overtime pay through the first half of 2014, which puts it on track to match or exceed the overtime totals from 2012 and 2013.

The homes showed a deficit of $1.9 million in 2012 and $3.8 million in 2013.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
A flood of overtime for nurses at county nursing homes

South side nursing home forced to close


SAN ANTONIO - A south side nursing facility is forced to stop operating after the state issued an emergency order.

According to state documents, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability found the Sunview Care & Rehab Center failed to meet standards prescribed in Chapter 242 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.

The facility posted a letter on its door saying the state issued an order to suspend the nursing facility’s license and force an emergency closure. The letter went on to say the facility’s violations create an immediate threat to health and safety of the residents.

An employee would not comment on the violations, but confirmed all residents are being moved to nearby facilities.

Loved ones rushed to the nursing home to be there for their family members.

"Everybody was running around here very chaotic. All the nursing homes staffs from all the other facilities were outside waiting in line for their patients to be assigned to them with their medications, their charts. Everybody was really nervous,” Pat Galvan said.

Galvan traveled from Laredo to be with her aunt, who has been a resident at Sunview for two years.

"We had to just come right away because we didn't know what was going to happen to her or where she was going to be,” Galvan said.

The nursing home would not elaborate on the violations, but the state's Health and Safety Code grades all nursing facilities on things like quality of life, access to care, safety of the environment and professionalism of caregivers.

"We came over here last week and they told us that they were just rumors. The director told me himself they were just rumors,” Lydia Quinn said.

Quinn’s uncle has lived at Sunview for nearly two years.

"My husband came by last night to bring my uncle a burger and he sees everybody crying. He calls me and says, ‘You're not going to believe what's going on. Everybody's crying here. Everybody's saying goodbye,’ and I'm like, 'What are you talking about?'" Quinn said.

A 2014 state inspection shows the facility failed to provide the necessary services to maintain resident’s highest physical well-being.

Full Article & Source:
South side nursing home forced to close

Thursday, February 12, 2015

John Walters, Thanksgiving in Abiding Care

Source:
John Walters Thanksgiving in Abiding Care 2013

On John Walters:
John Walters is under conservatorship with the Santa Barbara Public Guardian. Last year in 2014 he was living in a terrible board and care home named Abiding Care where he spent all day alone in bed in his room. The food was of inferior nutrition. He couldn't hear well, and wasn't given a hearing aid.

John had a care manager named Toni Liquornik. She infantilized him, and would engage in character assassination of his son, Adam, who was trying to get him out of a bad situation. After I visited John she told the court investigator wild stories about me (printed in the investigator's report) and went so far to say I was bringing in matches to burn off his warts. She then went on to say he didn't have any warts. Despite the widespread media attention and growing awareness of the dangers of pharmaceutical and antipsychotic drugs, she seems to be a fan of these drugs and I heard her praise Seroquel, the drug John was under.

I looked her up on the internet, and called her former employer, Senior Alternatives (888-451-4290) I told a sympathetic representative the situation, and was told the company couldn't tell me why she was terminated, but to "read between the lines" to find out. I contacted the Public Guardian's office and it was claimed she didn't work for the Guardian. I contacted other local government agencies, and no-one had information on her. Finally, a representative of the Public Administrator, Kim, left a message on my answering machine that Toni worked for John. This didn't make a lot of sense because John's under conservatorship, and doesn't have power to hire anyone. Finally, under pressure, the head of the Public Guardian's office, Arlene Diaz, admitted to me that its office was responsible for Toni's position and paid her with John's money.

After Adam and I made quite a stink about this, spoke at the Board of Supervisors, and I got an article published in the Santa Barbara News Press on the Public Guardian, John was eventually moved to another facility named Mission Villa. Owner Dana Newquist takes pride that he serves an all organic diet, and had written an article in the Montecito Journal about health improvements of his residents.

It took more time than it should have for the Public Guardian to get John out of Abiding Care, and into a better facility. The owner of Abiding Care, Dave Sullens, also owns Peppers in Montecito, where Harry Olson suffered a terrible fate--he was drugged up with antipsychotics, and allowed to fall repeatedly--eventually he died. Was this allowed to happen because he was running out of money (see attached article)?

Despite being in a better place, John is apparently so drugged up that you can't have a conversation with him. Call his son Adam at (805) 319-5667 to find out more.

Please call Harry Hagen, the Santa Barbara Public Guardian, at (805) 568-2920(or email him at Hhagen@co.santa-barbara.ca.us) and ask him to allow John Walters to have a hearing aid. Also ask him to have his office stop targeting and being mean to family members. Ask his office to lay off the antipsychotic drugs, to try natural alternatives, and to choose better doctors. Adam had taken his father to see a holistic doctor named Dr. Saunders, M.D., and Dr. Saunders said the drugs John was under were very harmful, that there were alternatives. As a result of Adam seeking a second opinion for his dad, Adam was targeted, and not allowed to take him out anymore. Please ask the Public Guardian to respect family members, and honor their choice for a second opinion. If you live in Santa Barbara County, tell Harry Hagan, an elected official (also public administrator and tax collector), that you won't vote for him unless John Walters and other elders get better treatment.

Thank you for your help,
~Bryan Rosen

Yadkin County woman suspected of exploiting elderly, disabled woman


Mary Elizabeth Crutchley
YADKIN COUNTY, N.C. — A woman in Yadkin County was arrested and charged for misusing her powers as an elderly woman’s power of attorney.

On Monday deputies charged Mary Elizabeth Crutchley, 53, with felony exploitation of a disabled woman.

Investigators said Yadkin County Adult Services suspected Crutchley was misusing her powers in August 2014 and notified police.

Crutchley allegedly cashed a check from the woman’s account and used the money for herself.

She was placed under a $5,000 secured bond and her trial date is set for Feb. 11.

Full Article & Source:
Yadkin County woman suspected of exploiting elderly, disabled woman

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

HighPointe nursing home neglect case closes with last two sentencings


More than nine months has passed since a hidden-camera investigation led to the arrest of 17 workers at a Buffalo nursing home. 

It was late April and the employees – a registered nurse, seven licensed practical nurses and nine certified nursing aides – stood accused of neglecting a bedridden man under their care.

One by one, each of those 17 former workers at HighPointe on Michigan pleaded guilty and has been sentenced, ending a story that cast yet another critical spotlight on nursing home care across the region.

“The treatment of the victim in this case was shameful, and I am pleased that those who were responsible have been held accountable,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a recent statement to The Buffalo News.

Initially charged with felony crimes, the defendants ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanors or violations. With one exception, a nursing aide who went to jail for 15 days, each was sentenced to community service.

As part of their sentences, they are required to take part in a “scared straight”-style program intended to educate other nursing home workers. State officials said the 17 will talk about their failure to adequately care for their patient and how that led to their arrest and prosecution.

“They worked in the most difficult, short-staffed unit,” said Charles J. Marchese, a defense lawyer in the case. “It was a very unfortunate situation, which I do not believe had to be handled criminally.”

The allegations against the 17 workers revolved around a single patient, a 56-year-old man suffering from Huntington’s chorea, a neurological disease that left him bedridden and totally dependent on the nursing staff at HighPointe.

With the help of footage that came from a camera hidden in the man’s room, state investigators accused the nurses and nursing aides of ignoring their responsibilities. They said nurses failed to check on him and dispense pain medication, and aides failed to provide incontinent care and give him liquids.

The workers also faced allegations of falsifying documents to conceal their neglect.

Kaleida Health, which runs HighPointe, fired the 17 workers and removed the facility’s director and director of nursing. It also took steps to improve hiring practices and the education and training of workers there.

“As an organization, it is important to note that we took swift and appropriate action," said Kaleida spokesman Michael P. Hughes. “As we move forward now, we can continue to focus on the patients and residents that we serve here at HighPointe on Michigan.”

The convictions began in mid-June when Cynthia Kozlowski, an LPN, became the first defendant to plead guilty to falsifying business records.

Over the next several months, several other LPNs – Shateeka Stevens, Marlene Sims, Jamie Cunningham, Michael Howell and Heidi Bowens – pleaded guilty to the same crime.

Prosecutors also secured plea deals with seven certified nursing aides. Rubetta Harrell, Kenissa Henderson, Mariah Robinson, Margaret Glass, Amanda Stuart, Nicole Baker and Hazell Clegatt pleaded guilty to falsifying business records.

Three other defendants also pleaded guilty, but to different charges. Nursing aide Tiffany Heard-Williams was convicted of a willful violation of health laws, and LPN Rochelle McNeair-Tisdale was convicted of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person.

The last two defendants to take pleas were Natalie Galbo, the only registered nurse charged in the case, and Ruteasha McCray, a nursing aide. They were convicted of disorderly conduct, a violation, and McCray was sentenced to 15 days in jail.

Marchese said the workers took the fall for Kaleida, which failed to provide its staff with the proper training and resources to adequately do its job. He also claims the victim, who has since died due to causes unrelated to the case, did not suffer any kind of physical harm.

“The individual patient suffered no injury,” Marchese said, “and to my knowledge, was never harmed.”

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

Full Article & Source:

DA: Great Neck Lawyer Stole $700K from Clients


Martha Brosius
An elder law attorney from Great Neck has been indicted on charges of stealing about $700,000 from her clients—more than quadruple the $150,000 she was originally accused of stealing, authorities said.

Martha Brosius, 50, tearfully pleaded not guilty Friday at Nassau County court to charges of grand larceny, scheme to defraud and offering a false instrument for filing. Queens prosecutors are handling the case because Brosius’ husband works for the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, which requested a special prosecutor to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“She’s retired from law and is returning files from clients,” her Garden City-based attorney, Marc Gann, told Judge Helene Gugerty when his client was arraigned on the new charges.

In the 18 months since Brosius’ arrest in September 2013, investigators discovered additional instances of alleged theft, which increased the original three charges to 12, said James Liander, bureau chief of the Queens District Attorney’s Integrity Bureau. The case was sent to the grand jury twice last year, the Press has learned.

The victims included an incapacitated 77-year-old man and a disabled woman who was the sole inheritor of her father’s estate. Some of that money has since been repaid, authorities said.

Liander requested that Brosius’ bail be increased from $10,000 to $150,000. The judge declined the request after Gann argued that it was unnecessary because Brosius has attended every court and remains at home, caring for her two elementary-school-aged children.

“The defendant is accused of breaching her fiduciary duty and unjustly enriching herself at the expense of her clients,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement at the time of her arrest. “Such alleged actions cannot go unpunished.”

The case was referred to prosecutors by the Office of Court Administration’s Inspector General. If convicted, Brosius faces up to 15 years in prison. She is due back in court on March 11.

Full Article & Source:
DA: Great Neck Lawyer Stole $700K from Clients

Case dropped against relatives accused of exploiting elderly man


Three relatives accused of exploiting an elderly man are no longer facing charges, after the cases against them were dropped or dismissed since their arrests, records show.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office last year announced the arrests of Cynthia Lane Thomas, 59; her husband, Richard Henry Thomas, 58; and his son, Richard Aaron Thomas, 34, on charges of elderly exploitation and grand theft.
Authorities accused them of misappropriating $870,000 belonging to Cynthia Thomas' father, Richard Chadwick, an elderly widower with dementia. Sheriff's investigators said she cleaned out Chadwick's accounts, using the money to pay off a mortgage and fund start-up businesses.

However, the cases against them have since fallen apart.

Records show prosecutors decided against pursuing formal charges against Richard Aaron Thomas in May. Last month, the state dropped its case against Cynthia Thomas.

Meanwhile, an attorney for Richard Henry Thomas successfully argued there was no evidence he personally moved Chadwick's money, or knew what was being done with it.

A judge dismissed his charges Dec. 2, records show.

Full Article & Source:
Case dropped against relatives accused of exploiting elderly man

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Guardian sues care center over alleged negligence


A Galveston County woman is suing a nursing home and its management company over claims they provided negligent care for a 54-year-old man under the plaintiff’s legal guardianship.

NursingHomeJoannie Cook, as legal guardian of Gilbert Michael Melancon, filed a lawsuit Dec. 29, 2014, in Galveston County District Court against Harbourview Care Center Inc. and Regent Management Services, Limited Partnership, citing lack of adequate treatment for Melancon, a bedridden patient with cerebral palsy, mental retardation, seizure disorder and other medical problems.

According to the complaint, sometime on or about Nov. 18, 2012, Melancon, a severely disabled, bedridden resident at Harbourview, was injured while his clothes were being changed. But the the incident was not reported until the next morning when an aide noticed he could not sit up in bed or move his left leg, the suit states, and an examination later that day revealed he had a fractured left hip and femur. The complaint alleges negligence on the part of employees at the center.

The plaintiffs seek damages between $200,000 and $1 million. They are represented by attorney Mark J. Wojciechowski of Wojciechowski & Associates in Spring.

Galveston County District Court case number: 14-CV-1348

Full Article & Source:
Guardian sues care center over alleged negligence

Huge Prescriber of Risky Antipsychotic Drug to Plead Guilty to Taking Kickbacks


A former Chicago psychiatrist who was the nation's top prescriber of the most powerful and riskiest antipsychotic drug intends to plead guilty to a federal felony charge of taking kickbacks from its manufacturer in exchange for prescriptions, court records show.

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois filed a single felony charge against Dr. Michael Reinstein this week for taking $2,000 in November 2009 from drugmaker Teva "in return for Reinstein's referrals of patients" for clozapine prescriptions.

Clozapine, also known as Clozaril and FazaClo, is approved to treat schizophrenia patients who don't respond to other medications. But it can have dangerous side effects, including seizures, inflammation of the heart muscle, and a drop in white blood cells. The drug is considered particularly risky for elderly patients.

A note in court records says that Reinstein intends to plead guilty at his arraignment next Friday. The action was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.

Reinstein's prescribing patterns have been detailed in two ProPublica reports.

In 2009, ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune reported how in one year Reinstein prescribed more of the antipsychotic clozapine to patients in Medicaid's Illinois program than all doctors in the Medicaid programs of Texas, Florida and North Carolina combined. Autopsy and court records showed that at least three patients under Reinstein's care had died of clozapine intoxication. At that time, Reinstein defended his prescription record, arguing that clozapine is effective and underprescribed.

Then, in 2013, as part of a ProPublica investigation into Medicare's failure to monitor problem prescribers, we reported that Reinstein prescribed even more clozapine in Medicare's prescription drug program for seniors and the disabled. Medicare continued to let him prescribe in the program even after the U.S. Department of Justice accused him of fraud and Illinois' Medicaid program suspended payments to him.

The U.S. Attorney's office declined to discuss Reinstein's upcoming plea. Reinstein's attorney, Terence Campbell, did not immediately return a phone call from ProPublica seeking comment. He told the Tribune on Thursday that Reinstein was "working toward resolving the issues raised by the government and hopes to put this episode behind him soon."

The Tribune reached Reinstein, as well, yesterday. He would not discuss the criminal case but denied any payments from Teva, clozapine's manufacturer, were for prescribing the drug. The doctor instead said the money was for lectures he gave.

In November 2012, the federal government filed a civil fraud lawsuit against Reinstein, saying he "received illegal kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies and submitted at least 140,000 false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for antipsychotic medications he prescribed for thousands of mentally ill patients in area nursing homes."

Last August, Illinois medical regulators indefinitely suspended Reinstein's medical license after determining that Reinstein received " illegal direct and indirect remuneration" from the maker of generic clozapine, did not consider alternative treatments for his patients, and disregarded patients' well-being. In response to the medical board's accusations, Reinstein's lawyers invoked his right against self-incrimination.

Early last year, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the maker of generic clozapine, agreed to pay more than $27.6 million to settle state and federal allegations that it induced Reinstein to prescribe the drug.

Reinstein's prescribing of clozapine appears to have declined after our 2009 articles about him. From 2007 to 2009, he wrote an average of 20,000 Medicare prescriptions annually for clozapine and the brand-name version, FazaClo. That figure dropped to about 8,000 in 2012, according to data obtained by ProPublica.

Check out how your doctor's prescribing within Medicare compares to others in his or her specialty in your state. Visit our Prescriber Checkup tool.

Full Article & Source:
Huge Prescriber of Risky Antipsychotic Drug to Plead Guilty to Taking Kickbacks

Shock Report Shows Elderly Auctioned Off to Nursing Homes, “Cattle Markets for Grannies”


A shocking report out of England today focuses more attention on the issue of elderly abuse. A London Daily Mail report indicates local authorities in England are looking into a web site that auctions off elderly people to nursing homes, where the facilities bid on the patients they want to receive.

The whole scheme has been derisively called a “cattle market” for grannies where nursing homes typically win the bid by being the lowest bid in terms of the amount of money they will spend to provide care for the resident.

Experts are criticizing the system as an awful E-bay style auction that is uncivilized and treats people as property to be bought and sold. The bidding is sometimes open for only a few hours, at other times it can last for two or three days and the cheapest offer often wins, the newspaper reports.

The report is not surprising given the lack of respect for the life of elderly people that assisted suicide and euthanasia produces and author Margaret Dore writes that legalized assisted suicide has led to increased cases of elder abuse in Washington and Oregon.

“Assisted suicide in Washington and Oregon is a recipe for elder abuse and cloaked in secrecy,” she writes.

“The Washington and Oregon acts require the state health departments to collect statistical information for the purpose of annual reports. According to these reports, users of assisted-suicide are overwhelmingly white and generally well-educated. Many have private insurance. Most are age 65 and older. Typically persons with these attributes are seniors with money, which would be the middle class and above, a group disproportionately at risk of financial abuse and exploitation,” Dore explained. “The forms used to collect the statistical information do not ask about abuse. Moreover, not even law enforcement is allowed to access information about a particular case.

Here’s more on the outrage in England:
Critics last night said the system was akin to ‘auctioning your granny’ and a ‘cattle market’, saying sensitive decisions about an elderly resident’s final years are being made by a computer programme that is only interested in costs.
It also means the patient or their family often does not see the care home, and that those running the home do not see the patient before they arrive.

One council has boasted of reducing care costs by almost a fifth using the system.

The auction-style process allows councils to circulate anonymised details of individuals to a large number of suppliers who then bid in an online auction for the contract.
As many as 100 providers can bid before the software produces a shortlist of the most favourable bids. Shortlisted bidders are then told where they are ranked in the process.
If they are in second position, they can adjust their bid – either by lowering the price or offering extra care services – so that they can move up to first.
Councils say quality is the first consideration, but figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show 92 per cent of care packages commissioned on the system over a six-month period were awarded to the bidder with the lowest price, BBC 5 Live revealed.
Ros Altmann, a Government adviser and independent expert on care for the elderly, said: ‘These eBay-style sites highlight the funding crisis for elderly care. It is awful. The idea of bidding for a person is just uncivilised. These are not parcels, they are people.’
Janet Morrison, chief executive of the charity Independent Age, said: ‘Do we really want to treat older people as a “product” to be bought and sold this way? We are concerned that older people’s needs will lose out to price as the main reason for selecting a home.’
At least 12 councils use the auction-style systems. They include Kent County Council, Devon County Council, Southend Borough Council and Birmingham City Council. Dozens more are expected to follow suit.
Full Article & Source:
Shock Report Shows Elderly Auctioned Off to Nursing Homes, “Cattle Markets for Grannies”

Monday, February 9, 2015

Analysis shows dozens of complaints lodged against northwest Minnesota health facilities in past decade


In 2007, an unidentified man living at Hillcrest Senior Living in Red Lake Falls, Minn., fell out of bed and became wedged between his bed and the room's heat register.

By the time staff discovered him, he had sustained second-degree burns stretching from his right hip to his ankle.

The case was one of 22 confirmed instances of neglect, abuse or financial exploitation reported to the Minnesota Department of Health's Health Facility Complaint Office between 2005 and 2014 in Kittson, Marshall, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake and Roseau counties.

An investigation by the office concluded the resident's bed should have been at least 24 inches away from the heater.

"Due to a failure of the facility to provide for the safety of residents related to heat registers, it was determined that a serious threat to resident health and safety existed," special investigator Marilyn Norling wrote in a report about the incident.

Staff at Hillcrest Senior Living did not return calls for comment.

In other confirmed cases of maltreatment published in state reports, staff stole medication and money from patients, caused physical harm through hitting and did not initiate CPR when patient records said it should be performed, which resulted in the death of at least two patients.

At a REM Northstar facility in Crookston, a client received first- and second-degree burns on her left leg when she was left unsupervised and spilled hot coffee on herself in October 2010.

Executive Director Connie Menne said the company has zero tolerance for neglect and abuse and has a number of training protocols to prevent maltreatment.

"On at least an annual basis, each individual's supervision levels are reviewed by the care team," she said. "These discussions are outlined in a risk plan, and all employees are trained on these plans."
At least 40 hours of training and orientation are required of new employees, Menne said.

Keeping updated standard practices, such as patient care procedures, is advocated by organizations such as Care Providers of Minnesota — a nonprofit membership organization for care facilities such as nursing homes.

"If there are problems out there, we want to see them resolved," said Doug Beardsley, vice president of member services for Care Providers. "Standards of practice keep changing and require higher and higher expectations, which is appropriate. We don't want people in pain."

Counting complaints

More than 2,600 health facilities are licensed by the Minnesota Health Department and fall under the jurisdiction of its Health Facility Complaint Office.

Those facilities include nursing homes, hospitals, boarding care homes, supervised-living facilities, home care providers, hospice programs and residences, assisted-living providers and freestanding outpatient surgical facilities.

Alleged incidents of maltreatment at all Minnesota facilities generated 1,345 complaints statewide in 2013, according to the most recent annual "Allegations of Maltreatment in Minnesota Health Care Facilities" report submitted to the Minnesota State Legislature.

Complaints are not as prevalent in northwestern Minnesota as they are in more urban areas, but dozens were filed between 2005 and 2014.

Total, 58 complaints were received during that timeframe for facilities in the six aforementioned northwest counties. While 22 allegations were substantiated, 36 were not confirmed or the investigation was inconclusive.

Complaints: List of northwest Minnesota county complaints

Allegations of maltreatment — accidents are not reportable — can be submitted to the complaint office by residents, by someone on their behalf or by "provider-initiated" reports, which means the care provider brings allegations forward for investigation.

REM received six complaints during that 10-year time period, though only one involving the client burned by coffee was confirmed by investigators.

Even unconfirmed allegations prompt action, according to Menne.

"In these situations, we do review the incident and — consistent with our high standard for quality — we routinely re-train our employees and revise our protocols as warranted," she said.

Complaints constituted only 7 percent of maltreatment incidents reported to the state.

Incidents coming out of facility self-reports represent an overwhelming majority of those filed with the Health Facility Complaint Office.

More than 19,500 allegations of maltreatment came to the state through these reports in 2013. That number represents a 527 percent increase in the number of maltreatment allegations since 2010.

"It tells that people aren't trying to hide something. They're not waiting for a complaint or a family or community member," Beardsley said of the number of self-reports. "They're saying 'Hey, we caught something or something less than desirable happened. We are going to do our own internal investigation, and we believe it's appropriate and required for an external agency to look at it.'"  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Analysis shows dozens of complaints lodged against northwest Minnesota health facilities in past decade

District Judge Kelly Ballentine suspended without pay for failing to file taxes


An embattled Lancaster city district judge has been suspended regarding her alleged failure to pay income taxes.
The state's Court of Judicial Discipline suspended Judge Kelly Ballentine on Friday, following a Thursday hearing in Harrisburg.
The Court of Judicial Discipline issued the order late Friday afternoon. The panel will decide permanent penalty at an upcoming sanctions hearing.

Ballentine will continue to receive medical benefits during the suspension.

A senior district judge will preside over cases at her office for the time being.

The state Judicial Conduct Board, essentially the prosecuting agency in the process, charged Ballentine with not paying state or federal income taxes between 2009 and 2013.

The board also charged that Ballentine has a prior conviction of conducting sales, during that same time, at her Lancaster city fashion store without a tax license.

Ballentine faced a separate legal battle when the state attorney general charged her in 2012 with dismissing her own parking tickets.

Ultimately, she pleaded guilty, paid a fine and was sentenced to probation. She was suspended from her judge duties for 16 months, before returning to the bench in June 2013 - on judicial probation.
She's been hearing cases ever since.

At the Thursday hearing, the Judicial Conduct Board argued that Ballentine violated the judicial probation with the tax violations. They also argued she violated the state constitution with the alleged misconduct.

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District Judge Kelly Ballentine suspended without pay for failing to file taxes

See Also:
Pennsylvania District Judge Kelly Ballentine Suspended From Practicing as an Attorney, But Continues to Sit on the Bench

Murder for Hire, Embezzlement and Attorneys Behaving Badly


A murder for hire plot, embezzlement, and stealing money from mom are just a handful of crimes and acts of misconduct committed by Oregon attorneys in the last three years.
 
The Oregon State Bar’s disciplinary arm considered 234 cases of official misconduct in 2014.   Among them were cases that included a defense lawyer who hired a man to kill his wife, the treasurer of the Oregon’s Yale Alumni Fund who wrote himself checks for over $31,000, and a lawyer who resigned after moving money out of his mother’s bank accounts into his own. 
 
See Below: The Five Worst Cases of Attorney Misconduct 2012-2014
 
While some cases are more egregious than others, the most common reason Oregon attorneys got disbarred between 2012 and 2014 was for taking money from their clients’ escrow, trust or personal accounts without their knowledge.
 
“Lawyers are well aware that that is a kind of mortal sin,” said veteran Portland litigator Terry Scannell. “Just bounce a check [from a clients account] and the bank is required to notify the bar.”
 
Scannell and other legal experts say that Oregon’s legal oversight system sets a high standard for legal ethics. That said, the bar association recently came under fire from the national association for being slow, inefficient and not independent enough. The American Bar Association recommended 19 areas where the local system could be improved.
 
Lawyers In Trouble
 
The most common misconduct cases seen by the Oregon bar are about small issues like attorneys who fail to adequately communicate with or represent their clients. Simply failing to file paperwork on time can constitute misconduct. 
 
Still, health-related complaints are on the rise, nationwide.
 
According to a national 2015 American Bar Association report, “disciplinary agencies are seeing a rise in complaints involving lawyers who are struggling with substance abuse issues and mental health problems, as well as age-related mental incapacity.”
 
Local attorneys are not immune to such issues, said Oregon State Bar spokeswoman Kateri Walsh. 
 
“It’s true that we see cases arise when a lawyer is struggling with mental health, drug or gambling or some other issue,” Walsh said. “I can’t say it’s increasing. But lawyers, like everyone else, suffer from these issues.”  (Continue Reading)

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Murder for Hire, Embezzlement and Attorneys Behaving Badly

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lawyer charged with stealing from wards, bilking burial fund


Paul S. Kormanik
A grand jury has accused a Columbus lawyer who served as court-appointed guardian for more than 400 people of stealing from his wards and from taxpayers.

Paul S. Kormanik was indicted on 11 charges yesterday. One is a first-degree felony accusing him of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a violation of Ohio’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said.

Kormanik was in jail last night. He is already awaiting trial on two felony theft charges. He was re-indicted on those two charges yesterday, and nine charges were added.

Investigators with O’Brien’s office and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office said Kormanik stole nearly $50,000 from four wards between 2009 and last year. The indictment says Kormanik hid assets from the court that belonged to wards and deposited them into his own accounts.

In addition to the RICO charge, Kormanik, 65, faces four felony charges of theft from an elderly person or disabled adult. He is also charged with five counts of tampering with records; authorities say he hid his wards’ checking or savings accounts from the court.

A fifth-degree felony charge accuses him of theft from the city of Columbus’ indigent-burial fund. Investigators found that Kormanik hid the assets of some of his wards to make it appear that they were indigent.

He applied to receive $710 from the city at least three times to bury wards he told the court were indigent, according to the indictment. Investigators found that those wards had thousands of dollars in assets that Kormanik did not disclose.

“The city has a burial fund that pays for burial for indigent people, and what actually happened is the person who oversees that fund, having read The Dispatch and seeing the articles (about wards and their court-appointed guardians), contacted us,” O’Brien said. “We sat down with the probate court and did some cross comparisons."

Calls to Kormanik and his attorney, Richard Cline, were not immediately returned.

Kormanik was one of several guardians highlighted in “Unguarded,” a five-part Dispatch investigative report that raised questions about how county probate courts across the state handle the care of children, the elderly and people with mental disabilities who are deemed unfit to care for themselves.

The investigation found lapses in court procedures and a lack of follow-through by several judges that subjected wards to abuse and neglect. Those lapses in Franklin County allowed Kormanik to amass nearly 400 wards.

Kormanik told The Dispatch last year that he was likely the guardian with the most wards in the country and easily in the state.

Probate judges, including current Franklin County Probate Judge Robert Montgomery, appointed Kormanik as guardian to each of his wards.

Court officials have been cooperating with the investigation.

“The court is aware of the indictment of attorney Paul S. Kormanik on theft and related charges concerning his conduct as a legal guardian,” Mike Moran, chief counsel to Montgomery, wrote in an email. “The indictments, in part, resulted from this court making one or more referrals to the appropriate law-enforcement agency concerning Mr. Kormanik’s handling of guardianships.”

Full Article & Source:
Lawyer charged with stealing from wards, bilking burial fund 

See Also:
Investigations launched into billing by lawyers appointed as guardians

Wards of indicted guardian are missing items, relatives say

Guardianship bill needed

Congress Seeks to Head Off Exploitation of Elderly

The case headed for a Southeast Missouri courtroom today involves a public official, and that makes it unusual. The nature of the case, however, has become increasingly typical.

The coroner of Perry County stands accused of theft and financial exploitation of the elderly. The allegation involves a woman in her 90s and at least $80,000 taken from her bank account.


Missouri’s legislature has acted in recent years to strengthen state laws against those taking financial advantage of older citizens. And Congress turned its attention to the problem with a hearing this week.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which heard testimony on Wednesday about financial exploitation of the elderly. She said later that an upsurge in the crime seemed likely.

“We do believe, because of the baby boomer generation, that there is going to be not a diminishment of this but, in fact, an increase,” she said in a conference call with reporters.

Demographic trends point to an aging population. In Missouri, according to the state’s Office of Administration, residents 65 and older made up 13 percent of the population in 2000. This will rise to an estimated 21 percent by 2030, with roughly 176,000 people in the 85-and-older category in that year.

Former Martin County (Indiana) Judge Pleads Guilty in Tax Case

A former judge in Martin County is facing a year in jail and a $100,000 fine for failing to pay $66,000 in tax debt.

Josh J. Minkler, Acting United States Attorney, announced Robert Joseph Howell, 51, pleaded guilty to failing to file his federal income tax returns for 2012.

He was found guilty today before U.S. District Chief Judge Richard L. Young.

Howell, operated Howell Law Firm PC in Loogootee, performing legal services. In 2012, the firm had gross receipts of approximately $450,000, including a $300,000 fee he received from a wrongful death insurance settlement.

Howell’s return preparer initially filed an extension for the 2012 tax year which expired in October 2013. When the accounting firm sent Howell an invoice, he chose not to pay the invoice or his owed taxes. He failed to file business or personal returns in 2012, resulting in a tax debt of over $66,000.

According to testimony in court, over $265,000 was withdrawn from his personal and business accounts at casinos in Evansville and French Lick.

R. Joseph Howell
Howell formerly served as a circuit court judge and prosecutor in Martin County.

Minkler stated, “taxes are a fundamental responsibility we all owe to help maintain infrastructure, schools and public safety services. When someone willfully neglects that responsibility, they will be held accountable.”

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.

According to Assistant United States Attorney James M. Warden, who prosecuted the case for the government, Howell faces up to one year in prison, a fine up to $100,000, and must pay full restitution to the IRS.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 11, 2015, in Evansville.

Source:
Former Martin County Judge Pleads Guilty in Tax Case