Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer announced the filing of a consumer protection lawsuit against a chain of skilled nursing facilities accused of misleading consumers by failing to provide basic services to elderly and vulnerable residents.
The lawsuit filed against Pittsburgh-based Grane Healthcare Co., which manages and operates 12 skilled nursing facilities statewide, is the result of an investigation by the Office of Attorney General’s Health Care Section. Eleven of the Grane facilities in Pennsylvania are named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Grane violated the Commonwealth’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law by making several misrepresentations on its websites and in marketing materials regarding facility staffing and the basic care provided to the residents of its facilities. Grane is also accused of the pervasive, chain-wide practice of billing consumers and the Commonwealth for services that were not provided.
“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,” Attorney General Beemer said. “We believe there is ample evidence that these facilities fell far short when it came to providing essential services.”
According to the lawsuit, Grane limited the number of certified nursing assistants on duty at its facilities, leaving the facilities incapable of delivering the basic care that Grane promised to provide. Despite this fact, Grane facilities advertised and marketed to consumers that they strive for a very high staff-to-patient ratio and base staffing on patient acuity levels. The lawsuit alleges that this conduct was deceptive, misleading and unfair.
The Attorney General’s investigation included interviews with former employees of Grane facilities and a review of survey results reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The allegations include the following:
- Incontinent residents were not checked and changed for hours at a time, and were left in wet and soiled clothing and bedding.
- Continent residents did not get timely assistance for using the bathrooms, causing them to urinate and defecate in their clothes.
- Showers were skipped or rushed.
- Residents were left in their pajamas during the day, because staff did not have time to dress them.
- Residents were not repositioned every two hours, as needed, but instead waited intervals of three to four hours between repositionings.
- CNAs used mechanical lifts to transfer and reposition residents alone, even though this practice risked injury for both staff and residents.
- Excessive and inappropriate use of physical and pharmacological restraints.
- Residents were woken at 5 a.m. or earlier to be showered and dressed for the day because of inadequate staffing on the day shift.
- Residents faced long waits after ringing call bells for assistance.
- Residents who required assistance with meals missed meals or did not get enough to eat, because staff did not have enough time to feed them.
- Range of motion exercises were rarely done with residents, though CNAs were instructed to document that they had been done.
- · Records were falsified, showing that residents received more care than staff had really provided to them.
- Below is a list of the Grane facilities that are part of the Attorney General’s lawsuit:
Altoona Center for Nursing Care — Altoona
Cambria Care Center — Ebensburg
Colonial Park Care Center — Harrisburg
Harmarvillage Care Center — Cheswick
Harmon House Care Center — Mount Pleasant
Highland Park Care Center — Pittsburgh
Kittanning Care Center — Kittanning
Laurelwood Care Center — Johnstown
Providence Care Center — Beaver Falls
Riverside Care Center — McKeesport
Woodhaven Care Center — Monroeville
The lawsuit was filed in Commonwealth Court and seeks to prohibit Grane from engaging in the allegedly deceptive and unlawful business practices it is accused of. The lawsuit also seeks restoration for consumers and the Commonwealth, as well as $1,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Law, or up to $3,000 for every violation involving a person 60 years old or older.
The lawsuit follows the filing of a legal action against Golden Gate National Senior Care LLC, which has subsidiaries that operate as Golden LivingCenters. That case, which is still pending, involves 25 facilities located throughout the Commonwealth. Attorney General Beemer also recently announced a $2 million settlement with Reliant Senior Care Holdings, Inc. and related companies. The terms of the settlement require Reliant to staff in a manner that fully accounts for resident acuity and individual needs.
Those with complaints concerning Grane facilities or other health care facilities are encouraged to contact the Office of Attorney General’s Health Care Section. Complaints may be filed at www.attorneygeneral.gov by selecting “File a Complaint” from the tool bar and then “Health Care.” Complaints may also be filed by calling the Health Care helpline at 877-888-4877.