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Lack of state oversight put seniors at risk, audit says

Posted April 29, 2008

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— The Department of Health and Human Services failed to provide adequate oversight of an adult-care facility, putting residents there at a high risk of injury or death, according to a state investigative report released Tuesday

The report found that the DHHS' Adult Care Licensure Section allowed the Cary facility, formerly called Parkway Retirement Home, to continue operating, despite nearly two dozen violations, a death and a suspension of patient admissions.

"There was a serious health or death allegation citation in May 2007, so it does get pretty serious," Chris Mears, a spokesman for the Office of the State Auditor said.

Two months later, Parkway was renamed to Phoenix Assisted Care, and ownership of the facility transferred, with the exception of one individual.

Mears said that is a violation of state law and a violation of patients' rights.

"These people aren't receiving the standard of care that we're morally and statutorily obligated to provide," he said. "That is the most disturbing thing here."

In a statement accompanying the report Tuesday, state Auditor Leslie Merritt said that by issuing a license, the state is establishing a standard for care in adult-care homes.

"Therefore, it has a moral and statutory obligation to ensure that the home’s care is living up to that standard,” he said.

Phoenix Assisted Care's executive director, Betty Stevens, said she was not aware of the audit, investigation or the seriousness of the violations while it was under the name Parkway.

In another case, the investigation also found the ACLS allowed an unlicensed home to operate for more than six months without taking the necessary steps to shut it down, even though the facility jeopardized the health and safety of the people living there.

The auditor's report said ACLS never notified residents or their families that the facility received a cease-operations letter that precluded the home from feeding and administering medications to the residents.

"You're dealing with real people with real needs, and there should be oversight to make sure those needs are met," Mears said.

In its response to the report, ACLS acknowledged the issues identified in the investigation and agreed to address their root causes.

“A license is only as good as the enforcement behind it,” Merritt said. “By agreeing to follow the recommendations in our report, ACLS is on the right track to setting the high standard of care on which older North Carolinians can depend.”

Mears said the auditor's office has forwarded its report to the Wake County district attorney and to the state attorney general to determine possible criminal violations.

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  • whatelseisnew Apr 29, 2008

    No Government is not responsible. Unfortunately, despite endless examples of the failure of all levels of government, people still think it is the answer. It is not, nor will it ever be the answer. Thinking so causes you to end up trapped in a stadium whilst a cat 5 hurricane blows the roof off.

  • wrrgirl Apr 29, 2008

    Unfortunately colliedave, a considerable portion of our elderly population don't have the support of their family members or may not even have family left. They may not have been able to go to church for years and have lost touch with friends. There have to be some regulations to ensure that they are cared for appropriately. In my opinion these regulations have been lax for way too long!

  • mrr03 Apr 29, 2008

    While Easley is running around endorsing people he needs to check out his poor administration

  • colliedave Apr 29, 2008

    But is government responsible? What about the children whose parents are in these homes? What about the churches these individuals worshiped in for so many years? Why does the Great Nanny State need to be responsible? And we want her to take on the responsibility of our health?

  • Adelinthe Apr 29, 2008

    “A license is only as good as the enforcement behind it..."

    AMEN!!!

    And that's one big problem with the society we live in. We take lousy care of the elderly, young and weak, and that is something that will one day come back and bite us big.

    Why do I say that? Because it says so in The Bible. A society is only as good as it's weakest link. Therefore, it should motiveate society to take care of their weakest links.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB