North Carolina Nursing Home Faces Lawsuit for Understaffing

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North Carolina Nursing Home Faces Lawsuit for Understaffing
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Citadel nursing home in Salisbury, North Carolina is facing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of residents who suffered as a result of alleged understaffing and breach of contract in regard to resident care. Citadel Salisbury was already on shaky ground with no rating from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 5-star rating system, requiring the facility to be entered into a special program requiring frequent inspections and even fines.

Nursing home residents allege that they did not receive medication or even responses to their requests for assistance.

The two residents who filed the lawsuit on behalf of themselves and other residents in the facility allege that the Citadel’s understaffing resulted in residents receiving grossly negligent care, including missed and incorrect medications, the wrong size pull-ups resulting in painful bedsores, and mass spread of the COVID-19 virus.

When the facility was tested, there were 189 COVID-19 infections and 18 deaths according to records in Rowan County. Many of the residents in these facilities rely fully or partially on their Medicare or Medicaid benefits to pay the facility to provide them with contractually agreed upon services, including reasonable care. Plaintiffs point out that these services were not rendered, constituting a breach of contract, as well as noting the money the residents and their families had to pay out-of-pocket as a result of the lack of expected care at the facility.

The plaintiffs allege that understaffing was an intentional measure to cut costs.

According to the official class action complaint, labor costs are the second-largest expense a nursing home has to deal with. The plaintiffs identify this motivation for an already struggling facility to lower costs even further, increasing their take-home profits. While these issues existed prior to the purchase of the facility by owners Simcha Hyman and Naftali Zanziper via their investment firm Portopiccolo Group in February of 2020, they allegedly only worsened when the new owners made no efforts to repair a system they were allegedly aware was broken. Portopiccolo Group purchased more than 20 run-down and/or poorly rated nursing homes during the pandemic.

In fact, according to the official complaint, “... while acquiring three nursing homes in North Carolina, Portopiccolo represented to its lenders that it expected to save $360,000 by lowering expenses associated with employee benefits and insurance and $410,000 by cutting equipment and transportation costs. These measures, outlined in a mortgage loan contract, allowed Portopiccolo to save more than $50 million across 37 facilities it owned in the State.”

Understaffing is a common problem among nursing homes.

Unfortunately, understaffing is one of the biggest problems among low-rated nursing homes. Not only does understaffing prevent residents from receiving timely and attentive care, but it can also lead to a chaotic environment for staff members that typically leads to burnout, a phenomenon that often precedes openly neglectful and/or abusive behavior toward residents. When there are not enough people on the job to provide the services a facility promised to its residents, any resulting damages fall squarely on the shoulders of the facility’s owners and administrators.

On behalf of the wider class, this lawsuit seeks to recover damages including the actual expenses incurred by the residents and their families due to the negligent care, compensation for the emotional distress inflicted by the alleged negligence, as well as any other fees the court deems appropriate.

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