Pa. sues Grane nursing homes over staffing levels

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A company with 11 skilled nursing homes in Pennsylvania doesn’t have enough staff to provide basic patient care — and faked it when state Department of Health inspectors were around, the state attorney general said in a consumer protection lawsuit filed Friday.

One patient, for example, needed medical cream applied daily but records show it was skipped 19 times one month. The same resident didn’t shower for 14 days that month and didn’t have his hair washed for nearly a month, according to the Commonwealth Court lawsuit against Grane Healthcare.

Grane, based in O’Hara Township near Pittsburgh, issued a statement calling the allegations “completely unfounded.” The company said it believes they are driven in part by a law firm that has partnered with the state and “stands to obtain significant monetary gain.”

The lawsuit was filed in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg because that court deals with issues involving businesses regulated by the state.

The lawsuit contends Grane advertised “high staff-to-patient” ratios but had too few certified nursing assistants to ensure that patients were fed, clothed, bathed and otherwise cared for properly and as advertised. Grane’s patients are largely elderly or too disabled to care for themselves.

“We believe there is ample evidence that these facilities fell far short when it came to providing essential services,” Attorney General Bruce Beemer said in statement.

Grane also “deceived the Commonwealth regarding the true conditions and level of care they provided by increasing staffing levels on the floor” whenever state Department of Health Inspectors were on the premises, the lawsuit said. That included having office and administrative staff pitch in to provide patient care when the inspectors were present.

“In reality, when DOH surveyors were not at the Grane Facilities, staffing levels went back down to normal levels and office and administrative staff rarely or never provided direct care to residents,” the lawsuit said.

Staff members of the various facilities told investigators they felt rushed to provide basic services because of understaffing, the lawsuit said.

For example, some patients were awakened at 5 a.m. so the staff would have sufficient time to care for them, and employees reported rushing patients through meals so the staff could move onto other required tasks, or keeping patients in pajamas all day instead of dressing them.

The lawsuit also contends the staffing problems led to fraudulent billing because it kept patients from receiving the level of care that Grane advertised which was paid for by their Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance programs, both public and private.

“These alleged misrepresentations not only deceived the residents of these facilities, but Grane’s business practices also degraded residents and increased the risk of negative health consequences,” Beemer said.

Among other things, staff would use mechanical lifting devices alone to move patients, which increased the likelihood that patients could fall or be dropped, or that the staff operating the lift could be injured, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks $1,000 per violation of the state’s consumer protection law, or $3,000 for each violation in which the victim is 60 or older.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.