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DA looking into allegations at Kingsport nursing home

Rain Smith • Dec 28, 2016 at 12:07 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — One week after the Tennessee Department of Health announced disciplinary actions at a Kingsport nursing home, the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing allegations of mistreatment and abuse of multiple residents.

The state has suspended new admissions at Brookhaven Manor, a 180-bed facility located off East Stone Drive on Stonebrook Place, due to what was called a violation of standards. The TDH identified several areas of operation as being deficient, including administration, performance improvement, physician services, infection control, nursing services and resident rights.

A separate 77-page “Statement of Deficiencies” from the Division of Health Care Facilities chronicled multiple claims of abuse and neglect of patients.

Assistant Sullivan County District Attorney Amy Hinkle says that she now has that document and is in the process of combing through the reported findings. If any alleged violations extend beyond licensing statutes and potentially into the criminal realm, police investigations will be launched. Findings of a criminal probe would be presented to a grand jury to consider placement of charges.

The TDH investigation began Nov. 1 and was completed on Dec. 16. As previously reported by the Times-News, several residents were noted as enduring “an environment detrimental to their health,” with various action and inaction among some of Brookhaven’s staff cited.

Alleged failures included preventing and thoroughly investigating alleged abuse and neglect. The state’s summary identifies potential mental and physical abuse involving three nurses and nine separate victims. One of the accused employees was terminated while another received a three-day suspension. State records show that no investigation was ever launched about a third nurse, about whom several “cognitively intact” residents had complained.

The state also documented complaints of bullying by an office manager who allegedly threatened to kick a resident out if a promissory note was not immediately signed. That administrator was “separated from employment” in August.

TDH surveyors report multiple incidents of improper care plans and treatment for residents’ bed sores and surgical wounds, along with failures to notify physicians of changes in patient conditions. In several incidents, timely incontinence care was lacking, according to the state, as was proper documentation of MRSA wounds. The risk of spreading infection was also reportedly raised due to staff not donning appropriate clothing for isolation rooms.

The investigation lists several residents as suffering from bed sores allegedly caused by improper care, while the state also deemed treatment and documentation for amputee and dialysis patients as insufficient.

In a separate case, a resident’s weight was not appropriately monitored, according to the state, and doctors and dietitians were not notified of it changing. The patient reportedly gained 75 pounds in one month.

Administrative deficiencies, according to the TDH, included failing to provide an accounting of resident funds to an executor or descendants within 30 days of death. Cigarette smoke from designated smoking areas was reportedly allowed to permeate nonsmoking portions of the facility.

In addition to being barred from accepting new admissions, Brookhaven Manor was also leveled a monetary penalty of $5,001.

The Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office is just beginning its review of allegations at the facility. Officials have not given an estimate of when the probe will be completed.

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