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Perinton Adult Home Fined

$5,000 is the latest penalty over patient safety violations

May 10, 2003 | Democrat and Chronicle

A Perinton adult home, where a former employee was accused last month of attempting to sexually abuse an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease, will pay a $5,000 fine to the state Health Department for other violations of patient safety going back three years.

The settlement is part of an ongoing negotiation between the state and Clare Bridge of Perinton, which is owned by Milwaukee-based Alterra Health Care Corp., the largest chain of assisted-living facilities in the United States.

The state barred Clare Bridge from accepting new patients after the April 10 arrest of 21-year-old Jesus Gonzalez, who worked at the facility as an aide.

Since then, the state has revealed a partial history of past violations at Clare Bridge, including another allegation of sexual abuse by Gonzalez in June 2002 that was allegedly covered up by management.

Alterra agreed to pay the $5,000 fine, which was announced Friday, to settle quality of care and patient safety violations reported by the state in August 2000, December 2000 and April 2001.

But other charges including those involving Gonzalez are pending, said Health Department spokesman Rob Kenny.

A yet-to-be-scheduled administrative hearing will determine the full scope of charges against Alterra, Kenny said. Pulling the facility’s operating license would be the maximum penalty. The Perinton home has 52 residents, all of whom have a history of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Even though it agreed to pay the fine, Alterra is admitting no liability in the settlement over violations reported between 2000 and 2001, said company spokeswoman Nancy Wier.

Alterra settled the claims rather than take part in “extended litigation†that would disrupt care to patients, Wier said.

Those prior violations included: falsifying meal records of patients; failing to maintain sufficient staffing levels; and enrolling patients who were not appropriate for adult care patients so sick that they belonged in either a hospital or a nursing home.

Some of the most serious violations involved medication errors. In one case, aides who were assigned to give a patient 0.5 milligrams of Risperdal, an antipsychotic drug used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, improvised the dosages.

They took a supply of 1-milligram pills and cut them in half without a physician’s order to do so and gave the patient dosages that were sometimes more than 0.5 milligrams and sometimes less.

Kenny said in each of these prior cases, the state made vigorous follow-up inspections and required Clare Bridge to make written correction plans. The state also fined the Perinton home $10,000 on April 6, 2000, stemming from violations reported in 1998.

So far this year, the state has fined 19 adult homes in New York a total of $68,075.

Clare Bridge was denounced in a scathing report by state officials a week after Gonzalez’s arrest.

Based on interviews with employees and a review of the facility’s records, the state discovered that Gonzalez allegedly attempted to sexually abuse another resident in June 2002 and that two high-level managers covered it up.

Administrator Charlene Englerth and case manager Geri Thurston, who were aware of the allegation, refused to conduct an investigation, the report said. They also threatened to fire any employee who revealed information about Gonzalez’s misconduct to local and state authorities.

Alterra suspended Englerth and Thurston in April, Wier said.

The duo also also had their state licensing revoked.

“We’re very proud of our staff and the type of care that they provide daily to our residents,†said Wier, who added that since Gonzalez’s arrest, Alterra has conducted a series of training seminars to ensure that any suspensions of abuse are immediately reported.

Alterra, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, has a troubled past, and not just in Rochester.

Over the past three years, regulators in at least five states, including Minnesota and Colorado, have reported that facilities operated by the company have inadequate or untrained staffs, failed to give elderly residents needed drugs, or failed to protect their safety.

A trial is expected to begin next month in suburban Philadelphia, where four former employees at an Alterra facility there are charged in connection with the death of an 83-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.

One of the workers is accused of kicking or stomping on the patient; the others are accused of neglecting the victim’s wounds and failing to report his injuries to authorities.

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