Chrishelle Worley said she was joking when she sprayed cleaning solution into the eyes of the nursing home resident she was charged with caring for as a nursing aid. The 41-year-old man could not move or speak. Had it not been for an anonymous tip, no one would have ever known that the patient had been tortured.
Worley, who pleaded guilty to patient abuse, worked at Park East Care and Rehab Center in Cleveland, Ohio. It was the same nursing home where a patient with a tracheotomy died after nursing staff twice neglected to suction out his breathing tube, federal and state records show.
Park East nursing home was rife with violations and earned the lowest possible rating on the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare system, a rating system created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to help consumers when choosing nursing homes for their family members. Park East was also fined $220,870 for patient care violations, the largest fine levied against an Ohio nursing home in the past three years.
Surprisingly, most nursing homes like Park East that put at risk the lives of vulnerable people are protected from a trial by jury because they require binding arbitration clauses in new resident contracts, which strip nursing home patients of their right to file lawsuits in the event of abuse, neglect or even murder.
Last year, CMS issued a new rule ordering nursing homes that seek compensation from Medicaid and Medicare to remove forced arbitration clauses. The new clause was to go into effect Nov. 28, 2016, but the nursing home industry fought back saying arbitration brings faster settlements and is less expensive – to the nursing homes, that is. A preliminary injunction was granted to further investigate the issue. For now, the CMS rule remains up in the air until it is worked out in the court.
Those fighting for the rights of nursing home patients are confident justice will prevail. Said American Association for Justice President Julie Braman Kane, “We remain confident that CMS has clearly acted within its existing legal authority and look forward to the full implementation of this rule, which ensures that nursing home residents retain access to the courts and that resident abuse is not left unchecked.”