Lawsuit Against Golden Living Says Residents Were Thirsty, Hungry, and Dirty

FullSizeRender3[1]HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) — Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced Wednesday that her office filed suit against a chain of nursing home companies accused of misleading consumers by failing to provide basic services to elderly and vulnerable residents.

View Complete Lawsuit (PDF)

The Office of Attorney General’s Health Care Section filed legal action against Golden Gate National Senior Care LLC, which manages and operates 36 facilities statewide. Its subsidiaries are commonly known as Golden LivingCenters, of which there are 14 named in the lawsuit, including one in Clarion.

The lawsuit alleges that Golden Living facilities were chronically understaffed and failed to provide the Basic Care services they promised — and were paid — to provide.

“The defendants’ deceptive and misleading conduct as alleged…is part of a willful, calculated effort to recruit residents and secure payments for their care while not providing the staffing necessary to meet their needs,” says Kane in the lawsuit.

Allegations of Deceptive Marketing Practices

The lawsuit asserts Golden Living violated the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law by deceiving consumers through its marketing practices.

“These include misrepresentations made on a chain-wide basis at the corporate level of the company, as well as misrepresentations made by the individual Golden Living facilities,” says Kane in the lawsuit.

The company advertised it would keep its residents clean and comfortable while providing food and water at any time. The lawsuit claims its facilities were understaffed, leaving residents thirsty, hungry, dirty, unkempt, and sometimes unable to summon anyone to help meet their most basic needs, such as going to the bathroom.

“Marketing materials also state that ‘clean linens are provided…on a regular basis,'” the lawsuit states. “However, they do not disclose that clean linens are not provided as frequently as needed, or that residents may wait hours for linens soiled with urine or feces to be changed.”

Allegations of Deceptive Billing Statements

The lawsuit claims that billing statements were “deceptive and misleading because they led consumers, insurers, and the Commonwealth to believe that the care for which they were being charged had actually been provided by Golden Living facilities.”

However, according to the lawsuit, a significant percentage of this care was never provided to residents because of chronic understaffing.

Interviews Reveal Allegations of Understaffing, Omitted Care

Moreover, interviews with residents’ family members and former certified nursing assistants who worked at Golden Living facilities revealed a “widespread pattern of understaffing and omitted care,” the lawsuit states.

Those allegations include the following:

  • Continent residents left in diapers because they were unable to obtain assistance going to the bathroom.
  • Incontinent residents left in soiled diapers, in their own feces or urine, for extended periods of time.
  • Residents at risk for bedsores from not being turned every two hours as required.
  • Residents not receiving range of motion exercises.
  • Residents not receiving showers or other hygiene services as required.
  • Residents being woken at 5 a.m. or earlier to be washed and dressed for the day.
  • Residents not being timely dressed in order to attend their meals.
  • Residents not being escorted to the dining hall and sometimes missing meals entirely.
  • Long waits for responses to call bells or no responses at all.
  • Staff, under the direction of management or fear of management, falsifying records to indicate residents received services when in fact they did not.
  • Improved staffing when state inspections occurred, leading to deceit about the true conditions at the facility.

The investigation also included a review of staffing levels self-reported by Golden Living facilities and deficiencies cited in surveys conducted by the state Department of Health.

The Office of the Attorney General estimates that on average, across the chain, approximately one-third or more of the Basic Care needed by residents was regularly omitted.

“The failure to provide this required Basic Care not only fell short of promises made by the defendants and violated the Consumer Protection Law, it also degraded residents and increased their risk of serious negative health consequences,” states Kane in the lawsuit.

Alleged Omissions of Care at Clarion Golden LivingCenter

A Confidential Witness, the daughter of a woman who resided at Golden LivingCenter for over seven years, provided information on incidents that allegedly occurred at the facility.

The allegations listed in the lawsuit are as follows:

  • “Staff members sometimes gave her mother food that she could not eat, because of meal restrictions.”
  • “Confidential Witness does not think that staff members repositioned her mother often enough. She was supposed to be in the wheelchair for only two hours per day and turned in bed every hour. However, Confidential Witness’s visits lasted about three hours, and she never saw anyone come in to reposition her mother during that time.”
  • “The CNAs on the day shift were very experienced and caring. However, there were fewer people available to help during the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift…The CNAs were rougher with her mother during the evening shift, and the care was not good. Sometimes her mother would call her at night to complain that she had been waiting for one hour for a response to a call bell.”
  • “She remembers one resident who fell asleep in the bathroom, and because no one checked on her, she was in there for an hour.”
  • “Confidential Witness recently missed some visits because she had the flu. During that time, her mother received improper care. Her mother was supposed to be kept at a 45 degree angle while in bed because she was at risk of choking. However, this was not done, and she choked on her vomit and got pneumonia. She was hospitalized in intensive care on a ventilator and later died.”

Inspectors from the Pennsylvania Department of Health also found that Clarion Golden LivingCenter violated state and federal nursing home regulations by allegedly failing to provide Basic Care and failing to keep accurate records, citing four violations listed in the lawsuit.

Breach of Contract with Commonwealth

The lawsuit asserts that Golden Living facilities breached their agreements with the Commonwealth by submitting claims for reimbursement under the Pennsylvania Medicaid Program, certifying that the services claimed had been provided.

The claims were submitted to the Commonwealth on a regular basis, seeking payment for the per diem charges for each day that each medical assistance resident resided at the facility. The per diem charge included Basic Care.

According to the lawsuit, Golden Living submitted the claims, “despite the fact that significant percentages of the Basic Care that comprise part of the per diem reimbursement rates were not provided.”

The Attorney General’s Office says at least 50% of Golden Living facilities resident populations were covered by Medicaid.

Lawsuit Seeks Up to $3,000 Per Violation

The lawsuit, filed in Commonwealth Court in the form of a complaint in equity and petition for permanent injunction, seeks permanent injunctive relief prohibiting Golden Living from engaging in the allegedly deceptive and unlawful business practices it is accused of.

It also seeks $1,000 per violation of the law, or up to $3,000 for every violation involving a person 60 years old or older. The action also seeks restitution for consumers, injunctive relief, and costs of litigation.

Consumer Complaints

Those with complaints concerning Golden Living facilities or other health care facilities are encouraged to contact the Office of Attorney General’s Health Care Section. Complaints may be filed at 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.

AG Kane Says Golden Living Profited at Expense of Residents

“As we allege, these companies profited at the expense of our most vulnerable residents,” Attorney General Kane said.

Kane continued, “These facilities promised to provide the care needed by residents and then failed to meet residents’ most basic human needs. That is simply unacceptable.”

Calls by to Golden Living were not immediately returned.

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