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Georgia Nursing Home under Investigation for Abuse

Nursing home abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that a nursing home in Meriwether County, Georgia is now under investigation by the local Sheriff’s Department after allegations of physical abuse. The incident was reported by a staff member and family of a resident who was recently hospitalized with a broken bone and severe bruising.

The 86-year-old resident was living at Unihealth Post-Acute Care in Greenville, Georgia when she was injured. After the Sheriff’s Department was notified the alleged abuse and officers saw the patient’s injuries, an investigation was immediately launched.

At the hospital it was confirmed that her upper arm was broken and the department gained access to forensic evidence from the resident’s medical records. Investigators will rely on her attending physician for injury confirmation, details, and possible causes.

In related news, ABC News and the Center for Investigative Reporting recently examined years of California records and found that the state failed to investigate unacceptable numbers of abuse accusations. In one case, 95-year-old Elsie Fossum, was living at Claremont Place Assisted Living facility when she suffered serious injuries that ultimately led to her death. Seven years after her suspicious passing, her family is still waiting for answers from the state investigators at the Department of Public Health.

Claremont Place claims Fossum died from injuries sustained from a fall; however, a former nursing director at the facility told police and state officials that she died from repeated punches. The former nursing director said that, in her final days, Fossum’s eyes were swollen and hanging, and there were visible knuckle marks on her skin. The injuries to her face were so severe she stopped eating and drinking, ultimately dying of dehydration.

State documents show that state investigators shelved over 900 cases of abuse and neglect like Fossum’s in just Southern California in 2009, including several reports of suspicious deaths. A former employee of the Department of Public Health told ABC News that he used to oversee such investigations, and the regional office responsible for Fossum’s investigation was nothing but chaos.

He said there were hundreds upon hundreds of unassigned, uninvestigated complaints in file drawers at the Southern California office, and his superiors often pressured him to close cases as quickly as possible. He was ordered to close at least ten cases a month on his own. He ultimately retired due to the dysfunction and poor management.

The new chief investigator took over in 2011, and says that the department has made an array of changes and the backlog has been reduced. There still remains a long list of policy problems, however, including discouraging investigators to go directly to the scene of the claims. Investigators are encouraged to do their work over the phone instead, which obviously leaves much room for error, missed information, and frankly, makes it much easier to hide, cover up or lie about an alleged crime.

Undoubtedly due to this, the department’s data shows that most investigations result in zero action against the accused caregiver and facility. In fact, the number of licenses revoked has declined significantly, resulting in much fewer cases ever making it to through to prosecution. In the two years between 2007 and 2009, only 88 deaths were referred to state prosecutors for investigation – during the following three years, that number dropped to just over a dozen. This, in a state where more than 300,000 people are cared for in nursing homes.

In some cases, caregivers accused of sexually assaulted patients have kept their licenses and moved to work at other facilities, including private homes. Very little is known about these backlogged cases, however, because they were never investigated.

Nursing home abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have decades of experience working with families of victims of neglect and abuse. We have our own, professionally trained investigators who work personally with each of our nursing home clients. If you or a loved one was the victim of abuse of neglect in a nursing home and believe you have a claim against the facility and its staff, contact one of our skilled elder abuse lawyers as soon as possible for a free legal consultation.