State gives Wellspring until May 7

March 15, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

A 200-bed nursing home in Glen Burnie has until May 7 to come up to standards, or the state will shut it down, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says.

The state fined Wellspring Nursing Center $50,000 in November for what it called "an ongoing pattern of serious or life-threatening deficiencies." In January, the state gave the nursing home the May deadline.

The center lost its certification for Medicaid and Medicare payments this year because of poor patient care. The center is appealing the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's ruling on Medicaid, which allows it to continue receiving those funds. There is no appeal of the federal ruling on Medicare.

The state also has barred new admissions, a ban to which the family-owned nursing center agreed to avoid having the state seek renewals every 30 days, according to a department spokesman.

Two months is a short time to turn a business around, said Global Health Management, the Bethesda nursing home company that assumed management of Wellspring, but it thinks it can meet the deadline and also buy the bankrupt business and its 13.2-acre site by July 1.

The nursing home sought bankruptcy protection in December, claiming about $1 million in assets but $2 million in liabilities, according to papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore.

Michael Francus, secretary-treasurer of the corporation that owns Wellspring, said the company has had a hard time finding, training and keeping good staff members. The family has owned Wellspring for nine years and has five other nursing homes. None of those other homes has serious problems, said Michael Golden, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spokesman.

Doris Streets, who said she pays $4,030 a month to keep her 85-year-old uncle, George Watty, at Wellspring, said she finds the place depressing.

"I just get totally bent out of shape when I go there," said Mrs. Streets of Glen Burnie.

She visits twice a day to feed her uncle and provide other basic care. She said he has been left sitting in one position and in his own waste, and has had clothes stolen.

"I am taking him out of there the end of the month," she said.

Records at the state health agency's Office of Licensing and Certification Programs for nursing homes reveal chronic problems at Wellspring. Last fall, an 81-year-old man received more than half of his medication improperly or not at all. He died after being at Wellspring for nine days, according to a December 1993 report.

State reports criticize doctors and nurses for being lax in following up on indications of problems in patients, some of whom have had toes amputated because of gangrene and been hospitalized for sepsis, or blood poisoning.

Sherrie Piaskowski of Pasadena said she tried to move her 96-year-old great-grandmother, Bertha Craig, to another nursing home but couldn't find a bed in the area.

Nearly every nursing home in the county has a waiting list.

Mrs. Piaskowski said she and other family members have found the elderly woman wearing nothing but a housecoat, even though clothes are available. They also found her in her own waste.

"They need a major improvement just to bring them up to the level of acceptable," she said.

Gary Sudhalter, Wellspring's acting administrator and vice president for patient services at Global Health Management, said he expects to do better than acceptable.

Mr. Golden said the state agency hopes Global's record of turning around problem homes continues. The company owns five other nursing homes in Maryland and one in Florida.

Dorothy Parker, Anne Arundel County's ombudsman for the elderly, said that "at least 20" people have contacted her about Wellspring in the last year.

"We're just keeping our fingers crossed that this place can be put back on its feet," she said.

"We don't want the place to close."

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