Whistleblowing

Someone needs to speak up and I’ll keep speaking up until some of these serious issues of healthcare inequity are actually looked at and corrected

A recent blog posting entitled “The Journey of a Whistleblower: The Challenges, the Pains and the Price ” identifies some of the issues when one is faced with some ethical decisions.

While my son was a resident at a state operated intermediate care facility, I brought issues of concern to the administration and the medical director.  When no action was taken, I approached the Human Rights Committee of the facility.  They did not think that the issues of healthcare neglect and injury were a concern of theirs.  I then went to the advocacy group for the residents of the facility.  The president told me that their goal was only to keep the facility open – they had no say in assessing or measuring standards of care.

Obviously the healthcare and quality of life for the residents was not on the radar of any of these groups.

So, I keep trying to get people, organizations, legislators and agencies to see the serious concerns with medical and nursing care at some of these facilities.

If your loved one was dependent on the care provided in a healthcare facility, would it be important to know that all the prescribed medications and treatments were administered?  Or would it be okay for the nurses to only administer sometimes but document that all prescribed administrations were completed?

Would medication compliance rates of 11-46% be acceptable to you?  These rates are certainly not acceptable to me.

But it’s not just the low compliance rates I’m concerned about – it’s the years of falsified records across the board on a variety of medications by many nurses that is a huge concern.  Who is to know if the medications are really administered with so little oversight?

Who monitors medication administration – apparently no one and this is a major problem that needs immediate attention.

There is immediate jeopardy to all residents of the facility until the medication administration problems are examined and corrected. It is shameful on the part of our state agencies that these practices have been and still are accepted practice.

As a nurse myself, I know this practice is unethical and illegal to falsify these documents.  I question the level of integrity of the nurses working at this facility who routinely engage in this illegal activity.

This time has come to go outside the state organizations and inform others.  It is not just about keeping a facility open, it is about providing safe, quality care.  Care that is not happening at this time.

 

Healthcare at the Intermediate Care Facility

Who oversees the healthcare at the intermediate care facility for those with intellectual disabilities (ICF/ID)?  If you have a loved one who lives in an ICF/ID it may be worth looking into this to ensure that the healthcare actually does at least meet the minimum standard of care.

This was not the case in the ICF/ID that my son lived in.  I first started noticing problems the first year he lived there and I tried to work with the team and work within the system to improve the care, provide education and collaboration.  As system after system broke down and my son’s health grew worse I was making more and more trips to his home to provide the care and treatments that were supposed to have been provided by the nurses and team at the ICF/ID.

I knew the medications were not being applied but since the nurses were charting as given that was proof that the medications were being applied as prescribed. The fact that my son was not responding indicated that more potent medications were needed in addition to other medical treatments to control his inflammation.  These other treatments are not without risk and actually do increase his risk of cancer but we needed to get the inflammation under control and his immune system stabilized.

I was visiting at least 4 times a week and would apply his topical medications when I visited – knowing that he would at least be getting them when I was there.  They were actually supposed to be applied twice a day  and were charted as being applied twice a day but that is not what was happening.

After we moved our son to supported living and his care staff  applied the prescribed medications as ordered his inflammation quickly was controlled.  In about one month’s time the inflammation that had been extremely problematic for 3 1/2 years was now in total control.  His lab work was essentially normal after 3 1/2 years of having hematological problems. The medications actually did work – they were just not being administered as prescribed.

Now that I have the actual pharmacy and nursing records to review, I have found 9 medications that were falsely documented as being given for 1-3 years.  As a nurse I am totally appalled at the lack of quality and integrity that was accepted and not even questioned and do not understand how these dramatic errors can go unnoticed and uncorrected.

Below are charts of 5 of the medications showing the dates of administration, the amounts the pharmacy (at the ICF/ID) dispensed and the amounts that were charted as given. The compliance rates are unbelievable!  Who would accept these rates as meeting any type of standard of care? Why is this acceptable at the ICF/ID?

medication-1medication-2medication-3medication-4medication-5

It’s not just nursing that was the problem.  There was to be a 90-day medication review or reconciliation.  The purpose of this is to check each medication and ensure it is still needed and is indicated and the correct dose is prescribed.  Obviously the medication reviews were not done (but were signed off as being done)  since 3 of these medications were only needed for a short time (1 month or less) but remained in my son’s active  medication profile for up to 3 years dispensed and signed off as administered.   Who really knows what was given and what was just charted on as given.

How is one supposed to know if a medication is working or not when there is this type of record keeping?

There are so many problems that can be identified just with these medication errors.  This is at a state operated facility and so far the state investigation has stated that the allegations are unfounded based on the fact that the nurses charted the medications as given as ordered.

The state agency that oversees this facility is the Department of Social and Health Services.  Unfortunately, complaints to the Medical Quality Assurance, Nursing Quality Assurance, Department  of Health, Pharmacy Quality Assurance are unable to provide any guidance since they do not oversee any of the services at the ICF/ID.  It is up to DSHS and they do not see any problems.

Residential Care Services has opened up another investigation to review these issues and other allegations healthcare abuse and neglect.  My hope is that this time they will be able to see the problems and work on a plan for correction so that the residents do indeed have healthcare that at least meets the minimum community standard of care.  Currently that is not happening.

 

 

 

Who Watches the Watchman?

When allegations are reported and investigated – what happens if the investigators are actually part of the group the allegations are against?  Who provides an independent review of the allegations if the investigative agency can not be objective and actually do a real investigation?

These are questions I have regarding allegations of medical/nursing neglect and abuse  in the treatment of my son at the state operated intermediate care facility where he lived for 5 years.  The agency which does the investigation is the agency which runs the facility.  Unfortunately, even though the allegations are all medical and nursing care issues, the investigator did not have one healthcare provider review the allegations, documents or look into the fact that policies are outdated or do not meet the minimum standard of care.

But these “experts” have decided that the allegations are unfounded based on interviews with agency staff (non-healthcare) and administration.

We hear that the ICF/ID provides “comprehensive care” including healthcare and that there is oversight to ensure the care is being provided. Maybe in doing random surveys and looking at random samples, it may appear that the care is being provided.  Also in those surveys they do not look at the quality of healthcare or if the healthcare meets the community standard of care.  They seem to check that the providers have current licenses to practice their profession.  I think that we all know that having a license is not the same as providing quality care.

In my attempts to have an objective investigation I have contacted several other agencies in the state, including the Department of Health, and have gotten nowhere.  They all point to the Department of Social and Health Services as the agency providing oversight of the care.  Even though the ICF/ID is a medical facility by federal definition, our state defines it as a long term care facility yet the Long Term Care Ombudsman does not consider it a long term care facility and is of no help.

Clearly there are issues of neglect and abuse – any sane person could look at the records and documents and make that conclusion – for some reason though the Department of Social and Health Services and their investigative team has chosen to continue this neglect by failing to see the obvious and make corrections.

The issues fall into various categories of medical malpractice, medical neglect, restraints without consents, multiple injuries including fractures, false documentation of over 8 medications for over 2 years, failure to communicate with guardian regarding psychotropic medication changes, failure to provide prescribed medical treatments and transport to medical treatment center for prescribed treatments, applying splint to wrong foot, applying splint over shoe rather than inside shoe and failure to protect from client-to-client abuse are just a few of the allegations.  Maybe some of the issues actually fall into criminal categories.

Certainly in my mind the lack of ability of the investigators and the DSHS administration to do an objective and fact finding investigation is criminal.

Does one need to file a lawsuit to get anything done about this?

 

 

The Last of the Institutions – corrections to investigation

Update January 7, 2016 regarding inaccurate data used in the DD Audit by Washington State Auditor – see red notes below

Corrections and clarifications are needed by Susannah Frame from King 5 News regarding her “investigative” series “The Last of the Institutions.

Ms. Frame and Russ Walker, Executive Producer King 5 Investigators, have both been notified of these issues and have been given more accurate and objective data and research.  Our hope is that they review the information and research they have been provided and produce a more accurate portrayal of the very complex issues involved with the care of our citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

  1. DDA Case Load and Costs Oct 2015 with Explanation – the reporters failed to mention that the costs attributed to the RHCs actually include costs for an average of 65 “community” clients who utilize the RHCs for short term stays, respite care, crisis care and other services.  This link has the explanations as provided by the Communications and Performance Unit Manager at DDA.
  2. These 65 clients are a non-duplicated number each month so in reality there could be 780 community clients who have their care and services billed to the RHC.  When looking at it this way it is clear that the RHC serves those in the community just as much as it serves the permanent residents.
  3. The DD Performance Audit is riddled with inaccurate data and has failed to capture much of the critical information needed to run a real performance audit.  Information about some of the issues can be found on this website under DD Audit.
  4. The DD Audit also uses resources that non-existent.  For instance, the DD Audit states they used the National Core Indicators Consumer Survey for Washington State 2009 -2010.  Washington State did not participate in the Consumer Survey by the National Core Indicators for the years 2009-2010.   Still trying to locate the data and the report the DD Audit team used for their information.
  5. In addition to questionable resources being used, the National Core Indicators are biased in their ability to capture the voice of those with more profound levels IDD and/or pronounced communication impairments. This population is excluded from the survey
  6. The NCI data is not a “national average” as reported by the DD Audit report.  The survey is only an average of the 16 states that voluntarily use the survey.

 

Response from the Human Services Research Institute in answer to my questions about our State Auditor DD Performance Audit which incorrectly referenced the NCI data for their audit.

In the past, WA collected the Adult Consumer Survey data during a time period that crossed over two separate NCI collection years – between Jan 2007 and Dec 2008.  (see below email from Lisa Weber, PhD) 

Because of this, the data could not be included in the national averages for the year 2009-10.  WA was issued a separate state report on these data (see attached.).

However, these data were included in the chart generator for the 09-10, but are NOT included in the NCI average on the chart generator for that year.  When you look at the data on the chart generator from 09-10 for Washington, please keep in mind the circumstances described above (especially if when comparing to the NCI average.)

Your question brought to my attention that this information should be noted in the chart generator for WA for that year.  I will work on getting that info added.

Referenced email from Lisa Weber, PhD (Washington State):

The attached file contains our data from the NCI Consumer Interviews.  There were 545 adults who participated in a Consumer Interview.  The interview responses and feedback forms are store in separate Access databases.

We have a two year data collection cycle, so this data was gathered between Jan 2007 -Dec 2008.  It was all gathered using the old version of the interview form.  We modified the data entry forms a bit to cover our additional questions and to make the data entry easier for our quality assurance staff, but the numbering of the NCI items in the tables has been left intact. 

Please write to Susannah Frame at sframe@king5.com and rwalker@king5.com to express concerns regarding the lack of objective reporting in this investigative series.

Arc of Washington State – Question their data and resources

The Arc Washington State recently sent out an alert “Crisis Stabilization Needed in Local Communities.”  While this is indeed needed, the information provided by The Arc Washington is not only incorrect with facts but much is actually fiction.

As a respected advocacy agency which many legislators and community members look to for guidance publishing alerts such as this actually hurt the people The Arc is supposed to be supporting.  Where is the integrity and transparency in their reports?

The Arc states that “On average, only 1-3 beds a month are currently used for any respite.”  The Data obtained from the Department of Social and Health Services Executive Management Information System (EMIS)  dates June 2010 through June 2014 clearly show that the Arc is very incorrect.  Below is a graph of the data obtained from the EMIS.  The average has actually been 32 respite clients per month at Yakima Valley School.

Community Respite in RHCs

The Arc states “The cost for placement in Yakima Valley Nursing Facility is $587 A DAY, much more than a community setting.”  Again, data obtained from the EMIS and from the Office of Chief of Policy and Programs, DSHS Quality Programs and Stakeholders Office Chief, and the Crisis Services Program Manager,   the cost of community crisis respite is $1,166 dollars A DAY as opposed to the average $441 at Yakima Valley School of which only $216.00 is the cost to our state when the Federal Medical Assistance Program (FMAP) is taken into account. (EMIS 2012-2014)

Respite at YVSWhen provided with the actual data, one can see that we need to pass E2SSB 5243 rather than reject it.

This bill does not address anything having to do with respite that people receive in their homes and communities and will not take anything away from them.  It will only provide much needed services and help prevent crisis and family breakdown.

Yes, we all want respite in our communities but it is not happening for various reasons.  Respite can be used for a variety of community outings and opportunities but out-of-home respite is also needed.  I can tell you that if my son had been allowed to have any out-of-home respite at all while living at home on a waiver, it may have saved our family and may have prevented him from being moved into the RHC.  I believe that out-of-home respite is an essential component of the whole respite program and will add to the sustainability of community programs.

Resources:

Data received from the Department of Social and Health Services, Executive Management Information System  June 2010 – June 2014, with correspondence from Mark Eliason, DSHS Office Chief of Policy and Programs; Janet Adams, DSHS Quality Programs and Stakeholders Office Chief; Carol Kirk, DSHS RHC Program Manager; Monica Reeves, Monica Reeves, Crisis Services Program Manager.

DDA Policy regarding ICF/ID Admissions –http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/adsa/ddd/policies/policy3.04.pdf

Report to the Legislature – December 5, 2011  http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/adsa/ddd/Fiscal%20Status%20Report%20Consolidation%20of%20RHCs.pdf

Where’s the Respite Care?

We hear that many people are in need of respite care and I’m sure this is true.  I know that when my son was at home the thought of having respite care provided was just a dream.  Even though he was on a Home and Community Based Waiver which included respite, he was never approved to have respite.

With respite “beds” in such dire need, it is mind-boggling to me that those who need respite and some major advocacy groups still desire to close the Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs) in our state. They are oblivious to the facts that the RHCs are part of the continuum of care, providing care for many from various community settings.  If they are aware of the facts and they advocate for closure or consolidation, they are really advocating against safe and appropriate care for those who need respite.

For the time period from July 2012 through August 2014, there has been a steady rise in the respite care at our four remaining RHCs.  Yakima Valley School, the RHC which has most recently been “studied” for closure, serves an average of 34 community respite clients per month.

When talking about the RHCs these so-called advocates talk only about the permanent residents of the RHCs.  We hear that there are only 70 people at Yakima Valley School – forgetting that over the past 2 years there have actually been 920 people served there.  Many more people from the community are served at Yakima Valley School than permanent residents.

This is a part of the discussion that needs to be heard.  The RHCs are part of the continuum of care and serve many people who reside in the larger community.  Without the RHCs, where would these people receive the much needed respite?

Cleints served at Residential Habilitation Center

 

The cost of care in the Residential Habilitation Centers is mostly for community care – the permanent residents are less than 50% of the number of clients served.

If The Arc chapters and the Developmental Disabilities Council continue to advocate for consolidation and closure of the RHCs, they are only advocating for fewer and fewer services, both for those in the community and those who are the permanent residents of the RHCs.  Where would all the people go and receive care?

Data from Executive Management Information System – Department of Social and Health Services

Washington State

July 2012 through August 2014

Who really is accountable?

Recently I have been involved in advocating for a young woman to have admission to the Intermediate Care Facility (ICF).  She was on a respite stay at an ICF recently due to an issue in the private home she had been living in – one to which she could not return.  During this respite stay she requested admission to the ICF near her home and family. Admission was “denied” and her guardian was told if she stayed in the ICF for 90 days, she would be eligible for the Roads to Community Living grant and could find a home in a supported living arrangement.

The young woman went home with her mother for transition to supported living.  The problem was that there were no supported living homes available.  Only one agency thought they could accommodate this young woman’s needs and promised much more than they could deliver.  During this “transition” time, one “promise” after another was broken – from issues of roommates, to appropriate room (it was suggested that the bed set so it was partially in the closet – the only arrangement in which a bed would fit in the room), to unsanitary conditions which could lead to health problems for the residents, to no staff able to take this woman out to her frequent community outings.  This obviously was not a safe placement  – yet it was the only one available.

It was at this point that I ran into this young woman at the grocery store  –  what a coincidence!

In the telling of the story, I asked her guardian about the Planned Action Notice, the required written documentation of decisions made by the Developmental Disabilities Administration – the  first step in asking for an appeal.  Without this written notice, an appeal cannot be initiated.  NO written denial had ever been sent – did the Admission Review Team really meet and did they really deny admission?

The guardian requested a copy of the written documentation (which would have been sent 2 months previously) It did not materialize but what did happen was the guardian received several harassing, abusive and threatening emails from the young woman’s DDA Case Manager.  I am not surprised that the documentation was not there but I was surprised by the written threats and harassment the guardian received.

This scenario is a scenario that many advocates are aware of.  The abuse of the rights of our vulnerable citizens.  Decisions are made without going through the legal process and therefore there is no written documentation of the requests for admissions to the ICF.  We hear that no one is denied and we know this is not true.  The reason that the “official” record says that no one is denied is because these decisions are made in secret, are not documented, the decision is not written down, a Planned Action Notice is not sent and the person has no opportunity to appeal.

 

This is unlawful and violates the legal rights of many of our loved ones.  When will this practice be uncovered and when will the department be accountable for not following their policies and the laws of Washington State, let alone the Federal Government?