Kaleida Health’s HighPointe on Michigan nursing home in Buffalo has been hit with a $40,000 fine by the state health department over lapses in the frequency of Covid-19 testing and temperature checks missed by some employees.
The dollar amount of the fine is significant — tied for the 11th-largest fine imposed by the Department of Health on a nursing home in the past two decades, and in the top 1% of all penalties. It is also the second highest fine among Western New York long-term care facilities during this period.
The fine, issued on February 15 but recently published on the Department of Health’s online database, stems from an unannounced inspection focused on Covid-19 infection control on May 7, 2021, which found that HighPointe had failed to ensure that some employees who worked more than three days a week were tested for Covid-19 twice a week, as needed.
Inspectors also found instances where employee temperature checks were not carried out as often as expected, particularly in cases where a staff member was working a double shift.
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No residents were affected due to the deficient practices, the state said, although the errors had “the potential to cause more than minimal harm.” The state ruled the violations corrected on July 2.
Michael Hughes, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of Kaleida, said the health system was “very disappointed” with the Department of Health’s stance, noting that Kaleida had objected and challenged the fine last year. last when he became aware of it.
“We truly believe the unprecedented circumstances and our overall performance during the current crisis warranted a better result,” Hughes said. “One who acknowledges the facts and what really happened here: that missed temperature checks represent a tiny fraction of the thousands upon thousands of temperature checks performed to protect HighPointe residents. We are disappointed that NYDOH has chose to quote us, especially when some of the missed checks actually represented workers working double shifts and had already been checked by the time they first reported to work.
“While we have complied with and paid the fine, we remain confident that HighPointe’s record on Michigan during the pandemic stands out among the best for any long-term care facility in Western New York.”
Of 35 Erie County nursing homes listed in federal data, HighPointe had one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 cases and deaths per 1,000 population.
The state’s visit to HighPointe in May came amid a continuing flurry of inspections to ensure compliance with measures to limit the spread of the virus, especially in the most vulnerable settings. Since March 2020, the Department of Health has carried out more than 4,200 infection control inspections of nursing homes and adult care facilities – with at least one visit to each nursing home and care site for adults in the state, spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said.
HighPointe, a four-story, 300-bed facility that opened more than a decade ago, was last fined by the Department of Health in January 2016, slapped with a $16,000 following a February 2015 incident in which nurses were not wearing the required pagers that could have alerted them before a 16-month-old boy hooked up to a feeding tube choked to death on his meal liquid. That incident and another case in 2014 involving alleged falsified records for a 56-year-old HighPointe resident led the attorney general to fine Kaleida $500,000 in November 2019.
On the evening in February 2015 when 16-month-old Jameir Benn died, the monitor strapped to his toe should have alerted staff that he had stopped breathing. But only one worker was carrying a pager and he didn’t answer the urgent call
In the past 20 years, the highest fine imposed by the Department of Health on a Western New York nursing home went to Humboldt House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Buffalo, which was Hit with a $50,000 fine in June 2020 after a visit two months earlier that uncovered infection prevention and control violations when the pandemic was only a month later.
HighPointe’s recent fine is the largest so far this year among penalized nursing homes in the state. But that’s not the only recent punishment for Western New York nursing homes.
Twenty-three nursing homes statewide, including four others in Western New York, were fined a total of $328,000 for infection control violations.
What other facilities have been fined?
So far this year, 35 fines have been levied against New York City nursing homes through March 22, totaling $304,000 in penalties, mostly following inspections last year, state records show. Ministry of Health.
Nursing homes in Western New York are responsible for six of those fines — 17% of the total — but 27% of the total penalties, or $82,000.
Aside from HighPointe, which has an overall rating of three stars, or “average,” in the federal five-star rating system for nursing homes, here are the local nursing homes that have been penalized since Jan. 1:
• Dunkirk Rehabilitation and Nursing Center was fined $10,000 on February 22, in connection with a September inspection which revealed a resident had suffered a second-degree burn measuring 42cm by 7cm lower left leg due to an electric baseboard located only 12 inches from the resident’s bed. Dunkirk Rehabilitation has an overall federal rating of two stars, or below average.
• Williamsville Suburban at 163 S. Union Road was fined $10,000 on Jan. 25, linked to an October investigation that found the facility “failed to ensure that the drug regimen of each resident is examined at least once a month by a licensed pharmacist. The pharmacist would then report irregularities to the attending physician as well as the site’s medical director and nursing director. Williamsville Suburban has a one-star federal rating, or “well below average.”
One-star rated facilities have been cited for failing to test workers for Covid-19, failing to ensure workers wash their hands properly, failing to report possible cases of abuse and more.
• Two of Elderwood’s nursing homes were fined. First, Elderwood in Williamsville was fined $10,000 on January 11, tied to an inspection in August related to cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. No other details were available in the state database. Elderwood in Lockport was fined $2,000 on January 20, relating to a July inspection on infection prevention and control, among other measures. Elderwood in Williamsville and Lockport both have three-star federal ratings.
• Safire Rehabilitation of Northtowns, a one-star rated facility in the city of Tonawanda, was fined $10,000 on January 6, following an inspection a year earlier for failing to properly investigate. thoroughly and to report incidents of possible physical abuse of two residents.
Jon Harris can be reached at 716-849-3482 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ByJonHarris.