South Carolina

Hilton Head nursing home on federal list of centers with ‘serious quality issues’

The Life Care Center of Hilton Head Island is included on a federal list of nursing homes with a history of “serious quality issues.”

The list was compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for its special focus facility initiative, a program to make nursing home care better in under-performing facilities. Facilities are surveyed on a yearly basis, according to the letter signed by Alec Aramanda, director of legislation for CMS.

Six facilities in South Carolina are on the list, including Life Care Center of Hilton Head Island, Blue Ridge of Sumter, Compass Post Acute Rehabilitation in Conway, Riverside Health and Rehab in North Charleston, Commander Nursing Center in Florence and PruittHealth Blythewood in Columbia.

Riverside Health is the only facility officially in the special focus program — the others are listed as “candidates.”

Previously, the names of 400 facilities identified as candidates were not made public.

In June, however, U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania released the list in a report titled “Families’ and Residents’ Right to Know: Uncovering Poor Care in America’s Nursing Homes.”

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Photographed by Life Care Media Center Photographed by Life Care Media Center

The report does not detail why Life Care, an 88-bed facility located at 120 LaMotte Drive, is on the list, but it does describe the process of evaluating the nursing homes.

Facilities can be chosen because they have:

  • More problems than other nursing homes (about twice the average number of deficiencies)
  • More serious problems than most other nursing homes (including harm or injury experienced by residents)
  • A pattern of serious problems that has persisted over a long period of time (as measured over the three years before the date the nursing home was first put on the SFF list).

If conditions do not improve at the facilities officially in the program, the nursing homes may lose Medicare and Medicaid funds, according to the initiative.

Asked about the classification, executive director of Life Care Daniel Lewis said via an email statement, “We consider ourselves partners with the state and take each survey visit seriously. Our last survey was May 2018, and all deficiencies were corrected as quickly as possible. In addition, further training was provided to all associates as part of our continued commitment to resident care.”

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Photographed by Life Care Media Center Photographed by Life Care Media Center

Following that May 2018 visit, Life Care was fined $172,499 by the federal government, according to the nursing home comparison tool.

Life Care is rated as “below average” on the comparison tool. The center has received 32 total health citations, according to the profile. The average number of citations in South Carolina is 7.4.

In the full report, representatives cite 30- to 45-minute wait times for residents who press call buttons and several instances where physicians and family members were not notified of changes to a patient’s medications or admission to the hospital.

In another incident, a patient who asked to be helped to the bathroom was told by a certified nursing assistant at Life Care to “just go in her brief(s).”

A Life Care patient reported she was sexually assaulted by an employee of the facility in May 2018. The allegation was investigated by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, which found no evidence of an assault.

The investigation was closed in mid-May 2018 because investigators were unable to establish that the incident occurred after “numerous interviews and evaluations,” Maj. Bob Bromage, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office, said Tuesday.

The identification as a candidate for the special focus facilities program means Life Care will be monitored for deficiencies in its yearly surveys, according to the report.

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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.