- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2014

After reports of elderly patients who suffered from malnutrition, dehydration, unnecessary hospital stays and infections requiring amputations, the Justice Department announced Friday a $38 million settlement with a network of nursing homes.

“These cases have real impact on real people,” said Stuart Delery, the acting associate attorney general, adding that the DOJ would use all tools available “to make sure that we maintain the health and safety of all of our citizens and all of our families.”

The allegations against Extendicare Health Services included unnecessary rehabilitation therapy, inadequate catheter care, patients getting bed sores and other treatment that was “so deficient that they were effectively worthless,” according to a DOJ statement.

Extendicare, which operates more than 140 nursing facilities in 11 states, “has denied engaging in any illegal conduct and has agreed to the terms of the final settlement without any admission of wrongdoing,” according to a statement from the company.

“We are pleased to finally put this matter behind us and look forward to continuing our efforts to deliver quality care and services to our patients and residents,” said Tim Lukenda, the president and CEO of Extendicare.

But Justice Department officials said the facts in the settlement spoke for themselves.

“These problems stemmed in large part from Extendicare’s business model — a model that was driven more by profit and less by the quality of the care it provided,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce Branda said.

The settlement is the largest of its kind ever reached between the DOJ and a skilled nursing facility network. Investigators have increasingly become concerned about fraud at medical practices that scam Medicare and Medicaid out of billions of dollars each year.

Since 2009, Justice Department officials said they have recovered $22.5 billion by pursuing cases against facilities that file false claims.

Gregory Demske, chief counsel for the Health and Human Services Inspector General, said an independent monitor, selected by federal investigations, would continue to keep an eye on Extendicare for five years to ensure they improved their patient care.

Officials said no criminal charges are planned against any of the nursing homes’ staff, owners or operators; however, a number of individual lawsuits have been brought by patients and their families.

Investigators said they reviewed accusations of the worst treatment at 33 Extendicare facilities in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

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