The owners of a western New York nursing home allegedly “weaved an intricate web of fraud” that resulted in patient neglect and created the conditions that led to fatal problems uncovered during the COVID-19 pandemic, the New claimed York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday in a new lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed against the owners, operators and affiliates of The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center, alleges that the defendants used the state’s Medicaid program to increase their personal gains instead of using those funds for the intended ones Use for recruitment purposes and patient care.
“Every individual deserves to spend their golden years in comfort and dignity,” said James. “But the abject failure of The Villages and its owners to comply with their legal obligations has resulted in residents suffering inhumane treatment, neglect and harm.”
Between 2015 and 2021, The Villages received more than $86 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments earmarked for resident health care. The lawsuit alleges the owners channeled 20% of it into separate entities they formed to increase their personal profits. The result is understaffing and poor quality of care, the lawsuit says.
According to the lawsuit, residents were forced to sit in their own urine and feces for hours; suffered from malnutrition and dehydration; developed sepsis, gangrene and other infections due to gaping bedsores and inadequate wound care; endured medical toxicity and unexplained doping; and sustained falls and other physical injuries. Some of this abuse, including other unmonitored or undocumented circumstances, resulted in hospitalization and death.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, management at The Villages sought to keep positive cases secret and delayed or neglected to enforce proper protocols for quarantining infected residents, the lawsuit says, resulting in preventable deaths. Employees were required to report to work even when they were sick, and they were provided little or no personal protective equipment.
The Villages was so understaffed that staff cared for residents who were both positive and negative for COVID-19 without following quarantine protocols. As the pandemic progressed, COVID-19 positive staff who were forced to report to work despite being ill mingled with COVID-19 negative residents and all residents regardless of infection status. Staff were told that if their temperature reading indicated they had a fever, they should go outside for an hour and come back to take their temperature again.
The lawsuit aimed to force the owners to return all monies received fraudulently, to appoint a receiver and financial monitor to stop the self-dealing and to appoint a health monitor to improve care, and to require The Villages not accepting any new patients until further notice.
“The owners of The Villages gave themselves millions while making our most vulnerable suffer,” James said in a statement Tuesday. “Today we are taking action to hold them accountable and ensure no one is ever treated like this again.”