Failing to protect the vulnerable


CBS46 were there as Trevor Wilson checked himself out of Signature Healthcare of Buckhead, a nursing home and rehab center that was cited for, among other things, "offensive odors" on multiple floors and failing to maintain a sanitary facility.

We went inside and spoke to the manager who says a new survey will find the problems have been resolved. But the most recent inspection records on file, reviewed by CBS46 Investigates, wasn't kind.

Nor were they at Bonterra Transitional Care and Rehabilitation on the city's south side. The facility, "failed to maintain dignity and respect," and denied a patient needed pain medication.

The manager inside referred us to corporate.

Those are just the deficiencies discovered in planned inspections.

The agency in charge of regulating nursing homes also fields hundreds of individual complaints from residents and their family members each day. And a new report by a federal watchdog found that agency is in major need of regulation itself.

Georgia ranked second-to-last in responding to the immediate needs of patients, says the report by the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The state is supposed to investigate serious complaints within two days. In many cases, they were topping out at 15 days, with nearly 150 abuse and neglect reports on backlog.

Commissioner Frank Berry heads up the Department of Community Health. His department's failures could cause the state to face federal sanctions. His office told CBS46 emergency funds approved by the legislature have eliminated the backlog of complaints.

But critics say that's a temporary band-aid.

We wanted to know what happens if those emergency funds are eliminated in future fiscal budgets?

Berry refused an on-camera interview, leaving patients like Trevor Wilson and their families wondering is there a long term plan to make sure the regulator can be trusted to regulate.

Statement from the Department of Community Health

The health and safety of Georgia's most vulnerable citizens remains a top priority, as such, DCH requested and the Governor and Georgia Legislature approved the addition of funding in early 2017 to begin immediately addressing issues in the nursing home program. Since the funding was approved, DCH has hired 18 new surveyors and has implemented a program to specifically target the complaint backlog.

Statement from Signature Healthcare of Buckhead

Signature HealthCARE of Buckhead was last surveyed in July 2017. There are over 500 areas reviewed for potential citations. Upon a very thorough survey conducted by the state of Georgia regulatory agency, only one area of opportunity existed. This area of opportunity involved refrigerator temperature documentation, which was corrected immediately. Surveys by the state are routine for all nursing homes. A plan of action was identified and executed from the issues identified on the 2016 survey. Any and all other citations for this facility were corrected and cleared at or near the time of citation. Buckhead is fully compliant with all state and federal regulations. As evidence by our 2017 survey results, all areas identified during the 2016 survey remain corrected and in compliance. It is our priority to provide our residents the highest quality care. Our residents always have been and always be our number one priority. Copyright 2017 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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