State health officials have banned admissions at a Baltimore nursing home for what they called "an appalling lack of supervision" of demented patients and for failing to explain the physical injuries of two patients -- including one with seven burns on her hand.
In a letter made public yesterday, Deputy Health Secretary Nelson J. Sabatini also accused the Key Circle Hospice Inc. of failing to get prompt medical attention for three patients with deteriorating health.
But Bertram Zimmerman, the nursing home's administrator, said the department's investigation was fraught with "inaccuracies and gross exaggerations."
In particular, Mr. Zimmerman took issue with the accusation that Key Circle took too long to respond to the declining health of a head-injured man who eventually died -- when, in fact, the man is still alive and living in another nursing home.
"We checked this morning, and this patient is doing reasonably well," Mr. Zimmerman said. "This patient is alive and well."
An official at the Belair Convalesarium on Belair Road confirmed yesterday that the home is caring for the patient, a 60-year-old stroke victim with a history of dementia and alcohol abuse. He had developed a blood clot inside his skull after he slipped while descending a flight of stairs at Key Circle -- and was hospitalized three times for complications.
After his third hospitalization, the man was transferred to Belair.
"That doesn't change the nature of the deficiency," said Mr. Sabatini, who admitted the mistake but said nurses were still at fault for taking 24 hours to notice the man's unsteady gait after he was discharged for the second time from a local hospital. An unsteady gait, he said, is a worrisome sign of potentially fatal complications following a head injury.
The nurses, he said, made the erroneous remarks to health inspectors who were conducting a four-day survey earlier this month. And when health officials raised the issue during an exit interview, he said, representatives of the Eutaw Place nursing home did not dispute it.
Health inspectors said they noticed that several disoriented patients were allowed to smoke without supervision. And in one case, they found that a 69-year-old woman suffering from Parkinson's disease had seven second-degree burns on her right fingers.
"There is no indication in the record how these burns were sustained," the inspectors wrote. "Staff members disagree as to whether or not this patient smoked."
Key Circle has 21 days to satisfy health department officials that it has corrected all deficiencies, or the ban will be continued.