Legal Aid filed a lawsuit against the state yesterday for moving low-income patients on ventilators in chronic-care hospitals to nursing homes, where they receive less-expert care. In the complaint, Legal Aid claims the state didn’t follow legal requirements when it changed guidelines for patients’ eligibility for hospital care in order to save money–and, as a result, several patients died after they were moved to nursing homes.
“Their goal was to save money, plain and simple,” Assistant Director of Advocacy Jennifer Goldberg told The Baltimore Sun in an article in today’s paper. “Of course, everyone wants patients to get the best quality care in a setting that is appropriate and that is cost-effective,” she said. “But if it is hurting people, that’s where the problem comes in.”
To read the article, click here.
Maryland Legal Aid staff attorney Anne Haffner
A nursing home resident with multiple sclerosis and threatened with involuntary discharge because of an outstanding bill will be allowed to stay, Baltimore’s WBAL-TV reported on Friday. Melanie Conaway’s attorney, Maryland Legal Aid staff attorney Anne Haffner, successfully negotiated an agreement with the facility, Future Care Northpoint in Dundalk. “We were prepared to go into a hearing and lose the hearing and be faced with a difficult decision about where Mrs. Conaway was going to be living,” Haffner told WBAL investigative reporter Barry Simms.
But under a last-minute settlement, Conaway will remain at the nursing home. “She said she was just so happy she would be able to stay and get her medical needs met at this nursing home,” Haffner said in the news segment. “The settlement agreement allows Mrs. Conaway to stay while we pursue a judgment against her ex-husband.”
The whole dispute focused on a $300 a month payment–alimony Conaway is supposed to receive from a divorce settlement in Tennessee. The funds are considered income and must be used for her nursing home stay, Simms reported.
Maryland Legal Aid’s Long Term Care Legal Assistance Project gave a three-hour presentation October 22 to new state long-term care ombudsmen at a four-day training in Baltimore. The ombudsmen are advocates for nursing home residents across the state.
“We have an informal partnership with them,” explained Harbour Partesotti, supervising attorney of the statewide Legal Aid project and a presenter at the training. “Some cases are better resolved by ombudsmen because they have unique relationships with the facilities. We refer those cases to them. They then refer cases to us when they hit a wall and need a legal remedy. We support each other in carrying out our shared goal of ensuring nursing home residents’ rights throughout the State.”
The training, conducted by Partesotti and LTCAP staff attorney Anne Haffner, focused on residents’ rights (both state and federal), admissions contracts, abuse and neglect reporting requirements and involuntary discharge (“a very important topic with potentially dire consequences for this vulnerable population,” Partesotti noted).
Legal Aid’s Long Term Care Assistance Project chalked up a major victory for a severely disabled nursing home resident with a broken wheelchair. “The client first called us two years ago because his wheelchair was over 11 years old, was falling apart and he couldn’t get parts to repair it because it had been discontinued,” said staff attorney Anne Haffner. “It had caught fire while he was sitting in it due to a product defect–the product had been recalled, but nobody at the nursing home knew. ”
The question: Who would pay for a new power wheelchair? After many months of wrangling, staff attorney Natalie McCeney (now retired) and former law clerk Darlyn McLaughlin were able to obtain partial funding from the nursing home and a significant sum from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (the client had been shot during a car-jacking over 17 years ago, which left him quadriplegic).
“This amount, coupled with a manufacturer’s discount, enabled our client to receive a new chair,” reported Haffner, who took over the case last fall. “There were many bumps along the way. But by late June our client was able to receive his brand new, fully equipped power wheelchair.” The nursing home contributed $5,000 and the CICB contributed $10,000. The price of $15,000 was discounted by the supplier as well (a new wheelchair is usually $20,000).