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State Regulators Drop Threat to Ban Lakeland Nursing Home from Medicaid

Lakeland Ledger

By Marilyn Meyer

The state has given up on its attempt to ban Oakbridge Health Care Center from the Medicaid program for an unprecedented 20 years. However, the beleaguered Consulate Health Care nursing home chain has more obstacles in its path before it can reopen the 120-bed facility.

State and federal regulators cut off Oakbridge from Medicaid and Medicare funds last winter after repeated warnings about health and safety violations. After paying a fine and signing a settlement agreement, Oakbridge is eligible to re-apply as a Medicare and Medicaid provider.

But first Oakbridge must resolve its state license issues. The license has been in limbo since Dec. 5 when state inspectors cited cases of actual harm to patients.

Beginning early last summer inspectors had documented instances of continuing understaffing and other issues and had sent warnings to Oakbridge administrators that the facility’s license was in jeopardy.

Among the many issues cited between June and December 2017 were:

  • One night shift nurse was solely responsible for a floor with more than 50 patients.
  • The wife of a patient called 911 for emergency medical care after staff did not respond to her requests for help for her unresponsive husband.
  • A temporary-care patient was transported to the wrong family. Her own family was not notified until after the error was discovered.
  • Patients’ calls for assistance with using the toilet were unheeded, resulting in patients soiling themselves.
  • Patients developed bed sores and there lacked documentation about how frequently they were turned.
  • The state also cited numerous instances of staff mishandling medications.

Medicare and Medicaid issues

Medicare and Medicaid payments are vital to most nursing homes’ financial health, typically accounting for 75 percent to 85 percent of their revenue streams. Medicare typically pays for rehabilitation care in a nursing home during the first few weeks after an elderly person comes out of a hospital. And Medicaid, which is intended to pay health care expenses for those with very low incomes, ends up funding the long-term care of about half of nursing home patients after their assets are spent down.

The termination of Oakbridge’s Medicare contract came on Dec. 8, along with orders to transfer patients to other facilities by early January. Days later, on Dec. 14, state regulators issued a 20-year ban on the state making Medicaid payments to Oakbridge.