State report finds Lapeer nursing home put residents in “immediate jeopardy”

The Villages of Lapeer may not be held accountable for the accusations of negligence.
Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 6:16 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (7/21/2020) - “These were actions right? They weren’t failures, they were actions,” Attorney Donna Mackenzie said.

She heard the concerns of employees and families who have loved ones inside The Villages of Lapeer Nursing and Rehabilitation. That prompted MacKenzie to look into the state’s findings.

ABC12 first confirmed the investigation in April. We shared stories of employees unwilling to return to work after battling the virus; and, we told you about a family’s loss of their loved one inside the facility due to COVID-19.

“With COVID going on, there’s limited access into these facilities; and that means, families can’t go in, the state has a hard time getting in, Long Term Care Ombudsman have a hard time getting in,” she explained.

So, Mackenzie said the state's investigative reports are really the only window into what's going on inside.

The state’s 37-page investigative report into The Villages of Lapeer details a list of serious issues against the nursing home.

“By far the most alarming thing in the report is that they had sufficient personal protection equipment and it was in a room and it was locked away, so that the staff didn’t have access to it,” MacKenzie said.

The report states the now-former Director of Nursing locked the vital protective gear away and sent employees home who wore their own to work.

She's since resigned. But this happened, the report states, at the beginning of the facility's COVID-19 outbreak -- resulting in 25 of the 58 residents testing positive, along with several staff members.

ABC12′s Ann Pierret asked, “Did they put their patients’ lives at risk?” Without hesitation, MacKenzie responded, “Absolutely. They absolutely put their patients’ lives at risk.”

It was also determined staff failed to properly administer medication and perform respiratory assessments on 5 residents dealing with COVID-19.

The Villages of Lapeer has been cited for violating two federal regulations.

“They found that the facility was in immediate jeopardy, which is the highest level of deficient practice that you can find for a facility,” MacKenzie explained.

“One can only imagine, unless they have a loved one in a nursing home with no access to see ‘em for four months or longer,” Ronda Woods said.

She's had concerns about The Villages of Lapeer since the first few months after moving her Mom in. Woods used to visit nearly every day to check up on her, but the doors have been closed during the pandemic.

“There is not a day, there’s not -- there’s not even an hour,” she said. “You know, I think about her all the time.”

Her Mom is one of more than two dozen residents who tested positive for the coronavirus in the last few months.

“I get real angry, you know, lately because it’s just been going on too long. I think it’s criminal. I wonder if one was my mom who was neglected,” Woods said.

Right now, under the Governor's executive order signed in March, long term care facilities cannot be sued for that type of negligence. They are immune.

“It’s unacceptable. It’s inexcusable. And, they should not get a get out of jail free card from our legislature, in terms of immunity for these types of acts,” MacKenzie said.

She explained there's a legislative hearing Wednesday on a bill that would extend that immunity through January 2021.

“We should fully expect our nursing homes who are caring for the most vulnerable residents in our society to comply with basic CMS and CDC guidelines to keep their residents safe,” she said.

The only way MacKenzie said a family can hold a facility accountable is by proving the nursing home's actions were 'gross negligence;' which she said, is not easy.

“I would call your legislatures -- legislators, I would tell them that these facilities should not be getting a free pass for the negligence that went on behind closed doors,” she said.

ABC12 asked The Villages of Lapeer for a comment on the report and what they would like to say to families who have loved ones in their facility.

This is their response:

“We are aware that an accusation has been made against a former member of our staff. Due to the fact that this is an ongoing matter we are not in a position to provide any details related to the accusation. We can say that The Villages of Lapeer has been and will continue to cooperate with State as the matter is being investigated.

Please be assured, The Villages of Lapeer is committed to continuing to provide high quality care and support to our residents and their families, as well as support for all of our staff.”

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