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Nurse at a former Scott County nursing home pleads guilty in federal court

October 1st, 2013 6:36 pm by Wes Bunch

Nurse at a former Scott County nursing home pleads guilty in federal court

ABINGDON — A  nurse at a former Scott County nursing home pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Abingdon to charges stemming from the falsification of medical treatment records for an elderly patient.

Melissa Ann Forester, of St. Charles, Va., pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements related to a health care matter.

Forester pleaded to the single charge after reaching a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As a result of her plea, Forester faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Forester’s charges stem from her time as a licensed practical nurse at the former Brian Center Health and Rehabilitation in Weber City, where she was employed from mid-2006 until 2011. The Brian Center’s name was changed to ContiniumCare of Weber City in November 2011, roughly 10 months before it shut down operations.

Forester was originally indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2013 on 10 counts of willfully and knowingly making false statements in connection with the delivery of health services involving Medicare and Medicaid.

The federal indictment against Forester shows that between June 5, 2010, and July 12, 2010, a patient identified as Resident 31 was admitted to the Brian Center for treatment that was partially covered by Medicare.

Resident 31, who was under Forester’s care, reportedly developed multiple pressure ulcers on the lower back, including one described as a “large sacral wound,” court records show.

Forester, who was responsible for monitoring and treating the wounds, minimized the seriousness of the patient’s pressure ulcers and failed to provide adequate care, authorities said.

According to the indictment, Resident 31 was transported to a local hospital at one point during her month-long stay. While there, doctors reportedly found her sacral wound dressing “full of feces” and the wound itself to be a severely infected, stage IV ulcer.

The patient reportedly died later at another nursing home. In the indictment, authorities said that Forester made it appear she provided adequate care by preparing entries in the patient’s record showing she gave treatment, including wound care, on days she was not actually working at the Brian Center.

Forester’s indictment  —  and subsequent guilty plea  — was the first stemming from a raid conducted by agents with the IRS Criminal Investigation’s Unit, Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Task Force in September 2010 at the now-closed nursing home.

The multi-agency investigation centered on possible violations of wire fraud, mail fraud, health care fraud and money laundering. Federal authorities said Monday that the investigation is ongoing and that more charges could be filed in the future.

In July 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) terminated status of the Brian Center  —  which by then was renamed ContiniumCare  —  as a Medicare and Medicaid provider.

The termination stemmed from the facility’s consistent failure to comply with federal regulations regarding quality of care and other deficiencies.

Due to the CMS decision, the nursing home ceased operations on Aug. 31, 2012.

In June 2010, the facility was placed on a special focus list for nursing homes that are considered among the worst in Virginia at meeting federal and state requirements.

On Nov. 3, 2011, the facility received a one-star rating out of a possible five by CMS. That rating, which is considered “much below average,” was based on health inspections, staffing and quality measures.

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