Government inspectors found 11 deficiencies at Tina Conner’s nursing home in a survey last week and, as a result, rejected Conner’s application to become eligible again for federal funding.
Birchtree Healthcare of Hickman County, which has figured prominently in recent investigations of Gov. Paul Patton, received a letter yesterday saying problems that caused officials to cut crucial federal funding last June have not been eliminated.
”Based on the findings of this survey, we have determined that the reasons for terminating your provider agreement have not been removed. The facility was not able to provide reasonable assurance that the reasons for termination will not recur,” Birchtree was told in a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Atlanta.
The letter states that Birchtree is welcome to apply again.
The issue of federal funding is crucial for Birchtree and other nursing homes because the costs for most residents are paid by Medicaid or Medicare. Since the federal government cut such payments to Birchtree in June, the number of its residents has fallen from 74 to 13.
Dan Dabney, acting administrator for Birchtree, said the effect of the decision amounts to ”a small delay” in the effort to restore federal funding. He said he will visit federal officials in Atlanta on Tuesday to try to persuade them to immediately reconduct last week’s survey.
”We feel that the findings on this particular survey should be negated based on the fact that the agency did not follow the process,” Dabney said. Dabney added that officials violated the process by stating in a Oct. 17 news release that the inspection had been completed three hours before the inspection was finished.
Last week’s survey was conducted by one federal official, and four people from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services.
Dabney said he thinks the state continues to be unfair to Birchtree. Conner filed a lawsuit last month alleging that she won favors from Patton’s administration while she was having a two-year affair with Patton, but that Patton retaliated against her when she broke off communication with him last year. The key part of that retaliation, Conner has said, was to order state inspectors to crack down on her nursing home.
Patton has admitted to the affair, but denies retaliation or any abuse of his powers as governor.
Dabney stressed that none of the 11 deficiencies were life-threatening.
The most serious deficiency stated that Birchtree officials failed to thoroughly investigate the cause of a large bruise on one resident’s thigh in August.
”The facility failed to conduct an internal investigation that included an initial assessment of the resident with emphasis on identifying potential abuse,” the inspection report states. ”An alleged perpetrator was named and the facility failed to utilize procedures to protect residents while an investigation was conducted by allowing the alleged perpetrator to continue providing direct care to residents.”
Dabney said the bruise was properly investigated and the staff concluded that the patient received the bruise during a stay at a hospital.