Nashville, TN’s own Nashville Scene uncovered some startling news about a Bristol, VA nursing home run by Tennessee’s own infamous National Healthcare Corp (NHC). The Murfreesboro, TN nursing home chain has been the subject of previous Tennessee Law Blogs as a means to spread the word about nursing home falls and signs of neglect after a resident died shortly after his one-month stay at NHC McMinnville, TN. (This was two years after the NHC nursing home chain’s fire at its Nashville, TN facility for which the company was found liable. Read original Tennessee Law Blog on NHC nursing home death.)
In recent news, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services surveyed the Virginia NHC nursing home’s employees after a sexual abuse complaint was filed against a staffer, a survey that the Scene reporters procured and whose results were shocking. Instead of the sexual abuse allegations leading to swift education to address the persistent problem, the survey found that 21 of the 35 nursing home employees interviewed were oblivious to their legal requirement to report suspicions of abuse to state agencies.
The man accused of nursing home sexual abuse, James Wright, age 35, was suspected in 2007 of nursing home sexual abuse at NHC Bristol and forced to resign, though he left the nursing home with no marks on his work record. According to NHC Bristol employees, management neglected staffers’ reports. Wright would then work at another nursing home nearby where new nursing home abuse allegations would be made against him in May 2008, causing him to lose his license and face criminal prosecution.
According to the Scene, NHC staff put the blame on chronic understaffing, which may contribute to the below average ratings NHC has received for its TN nursing homes. Understaffing appears a contributing factor in Virginia, where the state’s Department of Health had cited the NHC nursing home for general lack of care after a male resident was nearly killed by an infected bed sore.
Perhaps an even greater issue is the employees’ understanding of their legal obligations as nursing home workers and the chain of command at NHC Bristol. Nursing home employees should be free to properly report abuse to outside agencies, but when reports are kept internal to a company, as appears the case at NHC Bristol, management and supervisors are allowed to shift responsibility and avoid taking action which may make the company, or themselves, look bad. According to the Scene‘s article on the nursing home sexual abuse, various employees witnessed and reported inappropriate sexual contact between Wright and residents. When they reported these to the home’s charge nurse and directors, no action was taken.
As my fellow TN nursing home abuse lawyers and I see in many of these nursing home sexual abuse lawsuits, the sexual predator’s victims were mental unaware and unable to seek appropriate help, leaving only staff as reliable witnesses able to report misconduct. What adds insult to injury is that the nursing home chain appears to have made no real efforts to changing conditions.
NHC also has facilities in Hendersonville, TN; Murfreesboro, TN; Columbia, TN; and Cookeville, TN.