More than 40,000 North Carolinians are residents in more than 420 nursing homes in our state. (Health Care Resources Data) More than 70 percent of the state’s nursing homes are for-profit. (Basic Facts & Figures: Nonprofit Nursing Homes) They promise to provide excellent care of our elderly and infirmed. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters who have health needs beyond what those families can provide are now being taken care of in large measure by a corporate nursing home system whose bottom line is profits.
Two recent verdicts in North Carolina in nursing home malpractice cases illustrate the mindset of corporate nursing homes in our state. One case concerned an 88-year-old patient who fell twice while in the care of Britthaven of Goldsboro. She suffered a subdural hematoma, bleeding beneath the lining of her brain, and died a month later. The second involved an elderly lady who acquired a bed sore, sepsis and dehydration after spending about a month at Williamston Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center following a stroke.
Juries in Wayne and Martin County returned findings of negligence in each the cases. In both of those the nursing homes’ attorneys fought bitterly to suppress evidence that they provided inadequate care – including evidence from their own staff indicating they were understaffed, overworked and had too many patients to provide for. The nursing homes’ attorney indicated they were “not upset” by the verdicts.
The nursing home providers did not seem “upset” about putting their patients’ families through the ordeal of trial nor upset about failing to resolve this with the families before trial. The nursing homes could have accepted responsibility and resolved the cases so a trial would not be necessary. More disconcerting is that the nursing home providers were “not upset” about the inadequate care given those residents including the loss of the patients’ rights to good and safe care, to dignity and ultimately the loss of their lives to their family and loved ones.
It is bothersome to consider the quality of care the nursing homes provided and the degradation of the quality of life they inflicted on sick and helpless patients who depended upon them to provide good and safe health care. If they were not bothered by the verdicts in cases like these, then what are we to expect about the care they provide any time?
Thankfully the families did speak up in these instances and did not back down when faced with the probability of having to prove their cases in court – and that appears more frequently to be the only way we can try to guarantee adequate care for the elderly and the very sick. In these instances the families of these residents endured not only a terrible loss but also bore brunt of trial.
Generally our blog articles are objective. But because these type cases involve a segment of our society that is most vulnerable and dependent this one has a tincture of opinion which borders between anger and outrage.