Nursing homes are supposed to protect the most vulnerable, but that’s not always the case.
WTOL 11 has been looking into Advanced Healthcare in Toledo.
The facility caught our attention in December of 2020 when Toledo police opened up a homicide case for the death of a resident.
Since then, a suspect has been identified, but when searching through Ohio Department of Health inspection records, we uncovered citations outlining at least one more death, shortcomings in staffing and care the state considers life-threatening to people living at Advanced Healthcare.
Chapter 1: No place to go
“I think it needs to be closed down immediately, these are human lives and they are stuck,” said the loved one of an Advanced Healthcare resident.
This person has been trying to move their loved one out of Advanced Healthcare every day for more than a year.
They say they dread getting that call saying their loved one has died, but there are no open beds in other nearby facilities that meet the needs of their loved ones.
“As terrible as the situation is right now, we’re stuck in this location until, until I don’t know when,” the loved one said.
In addition to a homicide case from December, there’s a new investigation into the death of a patient whose inspection records show wasn’t given their diabetes medication.
Chapter 2: Health citations
The Ohio Department of Health lists 29 recent health citations linked to Advanced Healthcare between the state’s latest health inspection and last year of complaints.
Attorney Chad Tuschman has decades of experience in personal injury and nursing home cases he was alarmed by what ODH found.
“This is by far and away the most citations that I’ve seen,” Tuschman said. “It’s above any type of national average in the state and/or nation.”
Medicare.gov shows the 29 citations from the state during health inspections, just scratching the surface.
Its database rates nursing homes.
Advanced Healthcare gets one out of five stars from the government site when it comes to health inspections and two out of five when it comes to staffing.
The amount of times the facility has been cited is more than three times Ohio and national averages, according to Medicare.gov statistics.
Chapter 3: Ex-nurse speaks up
A former nurse at the facility said staffing was always an issue.
She told WTOL 11 that when she walked in for her shift, she didn’t know when she’d be able to walk out. People hired in her role couldn’t leave the facility without a proper replacement.
“There’s a vent/trach unit, there were IVs, wounds, all sorts of medically complex things, it’s not possible for one nurse to take care of,” the nurse said.
She tells WTOL 11 she reached out to the Ohio Department of Health who did an inspection related to her experiences.
They found a 48-hour period on January 2 and 3 of 2021 where no registered nurses were staffed to take care of patients.
Advanced Healthcare is the type of facility designated to care for people who can’t eat, breathe or move on their own.
WTOL 11 obtained a letter sent to Advanced Healthcare following the nurse’s call reporting issues to ODH.
It states that because of the number of violations found in the facility, the state will be instituting “discretionary denial of payment for new Medicare and Medicaid eligible admissions."
The loved one we spoke to says they have received no notification from either the state or Advanced Healthcare about the violations.
The nurse says what ODH found is just part of the story and the facility remains open with patients inside.
“There were a lot of nurses that were being worked down to the bone that were not taking breaks, that were working 20 hours at a time,” the nurse said.
This nurse worked in Advanced Healthcare two separate times and was eventually fired.
What she told us in our interview supported many of the violations we uncovered in the numerous state inspection reports that show what life is like for a patient inside the facility.
“They have free range in the facility to do or not do what they please. My loved one has missed meals, has been left in positions that are uncomfortable which cause pressure sores for hours. And I don’t mean two hours. I mean 24 hours,” the loved one said.
Lawyer Chad Tuschman says while this is the worst case he’s seen, ever since the pandemic shut the public out of nursing facilities he has been getting a lot of calls from people who are worried about the treatment inside nursing homes in general with no public oversight.
“It’s the most daunting stuff you see because these individuals need help and they’re at the most frail point of their life and to have something like this is beyond reproach,” Tuschman said.
Chapter 4: Few answers
The Ohio Department of Health has refused to comment for this story, but we were able to access the public health citations and ODH did forward on a letter it sent to Advanced Healthcare.
WTOL 11 reached out to Advanced Healthcare via phone at least three times and its public relations department via email throughout the course of this investigation. A response was received Wednesday afternoon, after this story first was published. It reads:
"(B)ecause of patient privacy laws we are unable to comment on a specific patient’s care.
"Regarding the inspection, the Department of Health has cleared the facility’s compliance plan as of April. However, the DOH website hasn’t posted it yet and can be slow to do so ...
"I know you were looking at ratings. It’s also worth noting that the facility has a 5-star rating for quality of resident care.
"As for (the resident's death), because this case is still be investigated we can’t comment on it."
Since the pandemic, COVID-19 and proper PPE usage has also been a major point of concern at Advanced Healthcare with 32 patients and 17 staff testing positive as of the latest update to Ohio’s coronavirus dashboard.