A legal battle is heating up in Oklahoma that will likely impact the way the government handles funding penalties in the future with nursing homes across the country. The heart of the battle involves a small Tulsa nursing home with extensive patient-safety violations over the past year. The violations were deemed so severe that officials took that rather drastic step of terminating Medicare and Medicaid payments to the facility.
Rather than disputing the alleged violations themselves, the nursing home asserts that the government acted improperly in applying care standards during its inspections. As a result of the improper standards, the government is alleged to have overstepped their authority in stripping the facility of government funding. Hence, the facility should continue to receive governmental payments for the care (or lack thereof) it provides patients.
In an unusual act, Woodland View Care and Rehabilitation Center and its parent company Sun Healthcare Group Inc. initiated their legal fight by suing multiple government agents from state and local agencies in an attempt to block efforts to cut off funding.
Multiple inspections confirmed widespread problems at the Woodland View facility, which cares for approximately 70 disabled and elderly patients. Amongst the findings from nursing home inspections include the facilities failure to:
- Protect residents from abuse
- Provide pain medications as ordered by physicians
- Treat wounds such as bed sores (also referred to as: decubitus ulcers, pressure ulcers, pressure sores)
- Provide adequate staffing levels to protect patients from accidents at the facility
The matter is currently pending in the 10th Circuit after a lower court ruled that the nursing home failed to follow proper administrative procedure under the Medicare Act and dismissing the original claim.
The real issue in this legal mess
While such termination of government funding would effective run most nursing homes quickly out of business, Woodland View certainly has the wherewithal to continue its operation as Sun Healthcare remains one of the larger operators of nursing homes in the country with more than 200 facilities and $2 billion in annual revenue.
A closer review of Oklahoma law may provide a little insight as to why this nursing home is putting forth such a vigorous fight in this matter. Like some other states, Oklahoma prohibits nursing home operators from opening additional facilities within the state after a facility has lost its federal funding. Sun Healthcare would thereby be prohibited from expanding its presence in Oklahoma beyond the six facilities it currently operates.
Oh, by the way, while the court sorts out this legal mess Woodland View continues to receive your tax dollars— $3.7 million to be exact– per the court’s order to continue funding while the matter is heard.