By Mike Stetzer
Often, when a company facing bankruptcy is bought by another company, a few changes are made. Sometimes the original product is maintained, and ownership simply changes. Sadly, in the case of many American nursing homes, the situation is much worse.
The nursing home industry, according to reports from Free Internet Press, was in serious financial trouble not long ago. Apparently, frequent successful lawsuits against various nursing home operations left the facilities with little choice but to file for bankruptcy or be bought out.
In many cases, large investment firms offered to purchase the struggling homes, and were able to get them back in the black. But, while their methods of cost-cutting and laying off employees looked good financially, they often resulted in diminished levels of care for the patients, reports indicate.
At Habana Health Care, one such nursing home in Tampa, Florida, having fewer nurses on duty reportedly led to the death of at least one woman. When her daughter attempted to sue, though, she was met with a complex labyrinth of ownership, making responsibility for the negligence that led to her mother's death difficult to determine.
Because of the layering system many corporations employ to share responsibility in nursing home ownership, many potential suits are abandoned - lawyers have apparently found that suits against nursing homes prove too complex to be worthwhile, and many have stopped arguing them altogether.
To make matters worse, investigations have shown that facilities owned by large corporations score worse than the national average on 12 out of 14 criteria used to rank nursing homes. Factors tested include prevalence of bedsores and other preventable infections, and patients' need to be restrained, according to the Free Press.
And all the cost-cutting sometimes leads to homes being staffed below minimum national requirements.
Unfortunately, many nursing homes are in such dire straits financially that they have little or no choice in the matter of being bought. With the aging of baby boomers, too, reports suggest that the need for nursing homes will only increase in the years to come.
Nationally, bankruptcy filings are on the rise this year, reports indicate. Is the nursing home industry simply destined to fall apart as financial difficulties persist? Hopefully not.
In Florida, a woman whose mother died has decided to sue the parties responsible. Three years after that decision, she and her lawyer are reportedly still trying to work out exactly who those parties are. But the ruling in her case, scheduled to be made later this year, could be important for this type of practice.
If she wins her case, large corporations across the country may be forced to re-think their policies on nursing homes, placing more consideration on the lives of their patients than on their bottom line.