Health Care

Columbia nursing home among 6 in SC with ‘persistent record of poor care’

Six South Carolina nursing homes, including one in Columbia, were publicly identified as being eligible for additional oversight by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

PruittHealth Blythewood, located at 1075 Heather Green Drive, was listed as a special focus facility candidate for its “persistent record of poor care,” according to a report released by two Pennsylvania senators.

After two investigations into Pennsylvania’s nursing homes by PennLive, Sen. Bob Casey and Sen. Pat Toomey teamed up to demand the list of special focus facility candidates and released the list publicly on June 3. Previously, only the names of special focus facility program participants were made public.

The secrecy undermines the federal commitment to transparency for families struggling to find nursing homes for loved ones and raises questions about why the names of some homes are not disclosed while others are publicly identified, according to the two senators.

Of the 15,700 nursing homes in the United States, about 400 had serious enough problems as of April to be placed on the list of special focus facilities, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of those, 88 are more closely monitored and receive inspections no less than every six months in order to get them up to par. If those nursing homes don’t improve, their access to Medicare and Medicaid can be eliminated, according to The Washington Post.

Once a facility “graduates” from the improvement program, each state can select a candidate to become a special focus facility.

In South Carolina, Riverside Health and Rehab in North Charleston is a special focus facility. Five other nursing homes are listed as candidates for the program:

Commander Nursing Center in Florence City

Blue Ridge of Sumter

Life Care Center of Hilton Head

Compass Post Acute Rehabilitation in Conway

PruittHealth-Blythewood in Columbia

The Columbia nursing home that can house about 120 residents, according to its Medicare.gov profile, was fined over $100,000 in 2017. In September 2017, federal regulators slapped a $99,267 penalty on PruittHealth-Blythewood. That was after the facility was forced to pay $4,237 in March of that year.

The Columbia nursing home’s overall rating on Medicare.gov’s Nursing Home Compare site is “much below average.” PruittHealth-Blythewood received a one-star rating and five health citations at an inspection on Oct. 5.

During that visit, inspectors reported meeting a resident with “long, dirty fingernails,” who was not helped to brush his teeth and had only three documented showers in the previous three months. Several other residents also received infrequent documented showers, the report said.

Other residents reported hours-long delays when they asked for help, even for something as simple as getting out of bed in the morning. Those were attributed in part to the facility being short-staffed, according to the inspection report.

PruittHealth-Blythewood also received an “average” rating — three stars — for quality of resident care and for staffing, based on the average number of residents per day, registered nurse hours per resident per day and other criteria.

The facility fell below average when rated on quality of care for long-stay residents. According to the most recent information from Medicare.gov about the nursing home, 7.8% of long-stay residents at PruittHealth-Blythewood experience one or more falls with major injury — double the national average. A high percentage (13.3%) of high-risk long-stay patients also experience pressure ulcers, the report says.

A spokesperson for PruittHealth and an administrator for PruittHealth-Blythewood could not be reached immediately for comment.

The New York Times contributed to this report.

Isabella Cueto is a bilingual multimedia journalist covering Lexington County, one of the fastest-growing areas of South Carolina. She previously worked as a reporter for the Medill Justice Project and WLRN, South Florida’s NPR station. She is a graduate of the University of Miami, where she studied journalism and theatre arts.
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