Major Texas-Based Nursing Home Chain Defends Care of Residents

A major nursing home chain is defending the care provided at its facilities after New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas vowed to pursue claims against the company.

The attorney general's office filed an amended complaint this week against Preferred Care Partners Management Group, a Texas-based company that operates in at least 10 states.

The suit claims thin staffing made it impossible to address residents' needs. Some residents were left overnight in soiled diapers and beds soaked with urine, while others fell and injured themselves after their calls for help went unanswered.

Preferred Care told The Associated Press in a statement that it stands by the care provided to the frail and elderly residents in its New Mexico facilities and that the company's staff is compassionate.

"We have full confidence moving forward that the quality of our long-term care services speaks for itself and that facts and truth will prevail," the company stated.

Preferred Care also took aim at the attorney general's office for how the case came about, saying the private law firm that first approached New Mexico about the case in 2012 is using similar tactics against nursing homes with other attorneys general across the country.

Given the novelty of New Mexico's case, officials in the attorney general's office said other states have contacted them.

New Mexico's lawsuit relies on calculations for how long it takes to complete basic care tasks, from helping residents to the bathroom to feeding and bathing them.

By calculating the total minutes required to properly care for residents and comparing them with the actual number of hours worked, the state found deficiencies of as much as 50 percent in the total hours worked by nursing assistants.

Balderas, who took office in January, initiated a review of the merits of the case and announced earlier this week he would pursue the lawsuit. He said his office will have direct oversight of the case as it proceeds through the courts.

He said going after the nursing homes to ensure residents, the state and the federal government get what they're paying for in terms of care is in the best interest of New Mexico.

The complaint states that since 2008, the nursing homes generated more than $236 million in revenue. The state and federal government paid for nearly 80 percent of that care through Medicaid and Medicare.

To get that money, the nursing homes promised to comply with federal and state regulations.

Cathedral Rock Corp. is also named in New Mexico's lawsuit. It operated several nursing homes in New Mexico before selling them to Preferred Care in 2012.

The attorney general's office says it has received complaints about both nursing home chains. Court records show a number of private lawsuits also have been filed against the chains in recent years.

In all, more than 450 abuse and neglect complaints about care in nursing homes around the state were lodged with the attorney general's Medicaid Fraud and Elder Abuse Division between 2011 and 2014. Only four of those resulted in cases.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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