A recent report conducted by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services revealed some serious concerns in regards to nursing homes across the nation and here in West Texas.
The report singles out area nursing homes and ranks the state of Texas at the top of the list for the most "deficiencies," which reveal the potential of residents facing high risk situations.
A nursing home in Brownfield is in the spotlight again for its failure to properly supervise its residents.
The CMS has a grading scale for nursing homes, which ranks from A to L. L is the worst grade, which indicates the "immediate jeopardy to a resident's health or safety" is widespread.
Apex secure care, formerly known as Tumbleweed, recently received a K rating, which is the second worst grade a facility can receive.
Instead of "widespread," the grade indicates a "pattern" of an immediate health or safety issue to residents.
This grade was a result of a resident who escaped the facility this past may and noted other "at risk" residents were unsupervised.
The state survey reports obtained by KCBD NewsChannel 11 revealed a detailed account, minute by minute of what happened.
On May 3, 2012 a resident was able to flee from the facility after several attempts to climb the fence.
Documents note several times that "Tech Monitor 3 was not watching the cameras."
The resident escaped from her room when she pushed the screen out of the window. She attempted to climb the fence by stacking items against it. Her attempt was unsuccessful. The resident climbed back into her room through the window once again to retrieve more items to stack against the fence including a "white chair". The same Tech Monitor was still "not observing the cameras."
Police were notified of the elopement at 12:57 p.m. that same day.
According to the report, the resident traveled over the course of 45 miles all around. There were reported sightings of the resident at a bank and a dollar store, in addition to her favorite restaurant. The resident was unharmed but was said to have been drinking alcohol.
This was not the first time a resident was able to escape the facility.
On February 3, 2011, Willie Joe Byers, 71, froze to death after he attempted to escape the nursing home when it was known as Tumbleweed. He fell and hit his head and was later found dead in the nursing home's outdoor court yard. When we spoke with the family of Byers last year, they said he had dementia and Alzheimer's.
Now according to new policies, those with such conditions are continually evaluated by staff and if necessary, is put on a "high risk" list," which requires staff to closely monitor them.
New management said the facility has spent more than $1 million in upgrades to make the facility a better place to live. Apex Secure Care has slowly changed ownership and are now collectively owned by 5 local physicians.
Apex Secure Care's newly appointed Administrator Sandy Rice said the ownership change alone has increased the facility's morale. "They care about this facility, they're very involved with this facility, they made the changes that are hopefully progressing our facility."
Rice said the fatal incident in 2011 was a result of poor management and the revamping of Apex will ensure all employees are prepared if another elopement were to occur. "Many of our security measures we not in place at that time, I was not at the facility, but I've gone through all the old reports to try and learn from them," said Rice. "We do have new policies to address temperature safety."
This includes prohibiting residents to be outdoors after temperatures reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
The newly implemented security system includes 35 cameras, which are monitored around the clock 24 hours 7 days a week.
"We have received some bad PR in this facility and some of it has been earned," said Rice. "We want our community to know that this facility is moving forward and has made a lot of positive changes towards the care of its at risk residents."
The CMS office confirmed that as of last week, Apex Secure Care was noted as being in substantial compliance with the Medicare program. The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services open records office said the investigations conducted on August 9, 2012, September 28 and November 14 were all compliant and "no deficiencies or violations were cited during any of those visits."
Apex Secure Care will have an Open House Tuesday to showcase their recent changes to the community.
If you would like to check out the ratings of other nursing homes, click here http://www.medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/search.aspx?bhcp=1