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Nursing home's license is suspended

December 16, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is shutting down Clearview Nursing Home on Downsville Pike, citing serious concerns about its residents' health and safety.

The move forces 36 residents to find new homes one week before Christmas.

The department issued an emergency suspension of license Wednesday for the nursing home at 9946 Downsville Pike, said Wendy Kronmiller, acting director of the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Health Care Quality.

"This is not something we enjoy doing, especially this time of year," Kronmiller said. "We had growing concerns about the facility's ability to keep residents safe."

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Messages left for Dr. Kailash Chopra and his wife, Anita Chopra, who run Clearview under Clearview Health Services Inc., were not returned Thursday.

Kronmiller said the most serious violation for the nursing home came in August, when a nursing home resident who had a history of swallowing problems was fed a hot dog, choked and died. Several other incidents, in which residents' dietary needs were overlooked or not properly addressed, were cited in the office's report from an October on-site survey of the facility.

"We felt things were getting worse before they were getting better," she said.

In the report stating its reasons for the suspension, Kronmiller's office said nursing home workers failed to keep frequent records of patients' weights, making it difficult to notice potential health problems, failed to check with doctors about changes in health-care plans and failed to follow proper protocol for reporting alleged patient abuse.

Kronmiller said "mistakes happen," but said her office was more concerned about the nursing home's "reaction" to those mistakes.

Even after the resident's choking death, other residents were receiving some pureed food with "a kidney bean on top," which creates a choking hazard. Some residents got "whole kernel corn," Kronmiller said.

"It just really took us to the point where we were concerned this would happen again," she said.

Kronmiller said there is never a good time to close a nursing home, an action she said her department rarely makes. She said she felt "that the week between Christmas and New Year's would be worse."

Kronmiller said several area nursing homes are cooperating with her department, which has workers at the nursing home, along with state Department of Aging workers, to help find beds for Clearview residents and help them move.

"We want this to happen relatively quickly. I believe people will safely be able to move next week," said Kronmiller, who added that "there's not a shortage of nursing home beds" in Washington County.

A majority of the home's residents are living there on Medicaid, she said.

For Steven Thompson Sr., 41, whose mother and grandmother both live at Clearview, the timing is horrible. He said he was told his relatives had to be moved by Dec. 23.

"I was like, 'This is two days before Christmas. I've got a lot of plans to make,'" said Thompson, a truck driver and father.

His 62-year-old mother, who had a stroke and is bedridden, "is beside herself, worrying about her care, worrying about everything."

Thompson's uncle, Jack Mills, 57, said his 82-year-old mother's health "is really going downhill."

He said, "I go in there every day and I don't think she's gonna be with us much longer."

Thompson and Mills said they placed their mothers at Clearview so they could be together, but they are worried that with another move it won't be possible.

It's possible, Thompson said, that a nursing home might not be able to take both of them.

Both men said they believe their mothers got good care at the nursing home, but they felt the management was poor.

Kronmiller said the nursing home came under the management of Clearview Health Services Inc. in June.

"I know that they had problems even before the transfer," she said.

In August 2001, The Herald-Mail reported that the Maryland Health Care Commission issued a statewide report card for nursing homes. Clearview placed among the "bottom 10 percent statewide."

According to the story, the report rated the quality of care on 27 indicators, such as frequency of falls, incidence of depression, proper use of medications and activity of residents.

At that time, Clearview "had higher-than-average rates of depression and more untreated depression" than other nursing homes in the state, according to published reports.

It also administered sleeping pills more frequently than most nursing homes, according to the Aug. 11, 2001, story. According to that report, sleeping pills "often don't work on the elderly and can increase the risk of falls."

Clearview has a right to request a hearing on the emergency suspension, according to the suspension notice paperwork.

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