The Illinois Department of Public Health fines nursing home $100,000.


Michael Smothers can be reached at (309) 686-3287 or msmothers@pjstar.com.



 



State and federal authorities have imposed "some of the most severe penalties" possible, short of shutdown, on a local nursing home plagued with recent problems, including two patient deaths, a state spokeswoman said Wednesday.


 


The Chicago-based company that owns East Peoria Gardens Health Care Center faces a $100,000 fine and the loss of five days worth of Medicaid reimbursements for all its patients.


 


Though she doesn’t know if it’s a record, "I’ve never seen a fine this high" imposed by the Illinois Department of Public Health, said spokeswoman Melanie Arnold.


 


The Medicaid suspensions, however, are the first imposed on a nursing home in the five-state region of Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan supervised by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, she said.


 


A survey by IDPH officials conducted April 25 found 23 violations that "run the gamut" in health care deficiency, including medical neglect and failure to notify physicians of condition changes in residents under their care, Arnold said.


 


The range extends beyond the circumstances surrounding the deaths in April of an 81-year-old woman after a fall in the home and of a 72-year-old man who choked to death on a doughnut while in his wheelchair.


 


Problems grew rampant from the home’s acceptance of younger residents with histories of criminal behavior and mental illness and unstructured mixture of them with more traditional geriatric and residents receiving long-term care, according to the survey.


 


From late last year to early April, that volatile combination produced about four dozen calls from the home, 1910 Springfield Road, to the city’s police and fire departments to quell disturbances ranging from thefts from residents’ rooms to fights and threats. One violent resident told firefighters he wanted to go jail.


 


While no state laws prevent nursing homes from accepting mentally ill residents, "They have to state they are capable of providing the programs and activities" designed to return those residents back to the community and keep them active while in the homes, Arnold said.


 


"Clearly, (the home) said, ‘Yes, we can,’" she said. It’s failure to do so was among the violations cited.


 


City police in April conducted a "sweep" of the home and arrested three residents, including one who once threatened police with an ax, and two employees. Since then, the home has produced no unusual problems, said Police Chief Ed Papis.


 


It also has been determined to be "in compliance" with state nursing home regulations since the April 25 survey, said Mayer Magence, the Skokie-based attorney for its owners. It now contains no residents with criminal backgrounds "that I know of," he said.


 


To make sure it remains in compliance, and in addition to the financial penalties, the IDPH will send a monitor to visit twice a week for at least the near future, Arnold said.


 


The IDPH, meanwhile, "is looking to improve" nursing home resident screening requirements to better identify those with mental health problems, she said.


 


While the home remains open, Arnold acknowledged its recent history puts it on shaky ground. In 2005, the IDPH fined it $20,000 and placed it under weekly monitoring after two other residents died in choking incidents.


 


Magence said he plans to file appeals both to the $100,000 fine and the Medicaid payment suspensions.