HARRISBURG -- Failure to provide basic care and services to residents has led to a $2 million settlement between a chain of nursing homes and the state attorney general's office.
In our area, Reliant Senior Care Holdings, Inc. operates nursing homes in Columbia, Luzerne, and Lackawanna Counties.
Reliant recently sold the 22 nursing homes it owns in Pennsylvania, including five in Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Columbia Counties, but it agreed to pay the settlement which the state's secretary of health says will go to improving life for the 80,000 people who live in all nursing homes in our state.
The secretary of health says 60 percent of the $2 million settlement with Reliant Senior Care will go towards better oversight at all nursing homes in Pennsylvania.
An attorney general's investigation found Reliant failed to provide basic services at its nursing homes in the state, which include Creekside Health and Rehabilitation in Carbondale.
The last two inspections of Creekside found floors in the kitchen were dirty with foodstuffs and debris on the floor, sides of the refrigerator were coated with dried food and liquid, and the facility failed to provide basic housekeeping.
In Harrisburg, the secretary of health said most of the money from the Reliant settlement will pay for more nursing home inspectors.
"Looking at other states and taking into consideration how we want to change our nursing home quality, we have decided to take a new approach to funding," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy.
In addition to more inspectors, money from the Reliant settlement will place posters that read, "Speak up. We are listening," in every nursing home.
It is similar to the child abuse hotline, where people can report wrongdoing in nursing homes anonymously.
"We are listening. We are concerned. And we will continue with transparency as we go through our performance improvement initiatives," said Dr. Murphy.
Secretary Murphy added her office will ask the legislature to pass new rules tightening the qualifications for workers, and mandating higher staffing levels at all nursing homes in our state.