Seven nursing homes, including Beverly Healthcare here, signed agreements with U.S. attorney to improve operations.
By JIM HALL
A settlement agreement between Beverly Healthcare and government regulators is part of a statewide effort to get nursing home companies to invest in staffing and facilities to improve the quality of their care.
Since 2000, seven Virginia nursing homes have signed settlement agreements that require the payment of civil penalties, the hiring of additional staff and the purchase of new equipment.
"We thought this would be the best way to help residents," Paul J. McNulty, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, said in a phone interview yesterday.
McNulty said U.S. Justice Department officials worked with the Medicaid Fraud Unit in the Virginia Attorney General's Office to identify nursing homes that were deficient in their care.
"What immediately caught our eye was the deplorable condition a number of these facilities are in," McNulty said.
Investigators also identified homes that had "troublesome billing practices," including double billing and billing for services not performed, McNulty said.
Investigators subpoenaed nursing home records before beginning settlement talks with them, McNulty said. All of the allegations were civil claims made under the federal False Claims Act and the state's Medicaid Fraud laws. The deficiencies were alleged to have occurred from 1995 to the present.
Nursing homes receive much of their revenue from state and federal governments through the Medicaid and Medicare health programs.
Seven nursing homes, including Beverly Healthcare, a 177-bed facility on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County, signed the agreements to avoid litigation.
According to prosecutors, the other homes are:
Ashland Convalescent Center, Ashland.
Chippenham Manor Nursing Center, Richmond.
Leewood Healthcare Center, Annandale.
Oak Meadow Nursing Center, Alexandria.
Warsaw Health Care Center, Warsaw.
Woodbine Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, Alexandria.
Beverly's 23-page agreement is similar to the others, McNulty said. In it, the Arkansas-based company does not admit any violation of state or federal laws, yet it does agree to spend thousands of dollars in penalties and improvements to its home.
The civil penalties are smaller than they could have been, McNulty said. Instead, prosecutors asked the nursing home companies to invest that money in their facilities.
"That was a different way of doing things," McNulty said.
Beverly signed its agreement with prosecutors in April 2004 and has 18 months to complete the required changes.
Beverly officials said Monday that they have already invested at least $500,000 in improvements.
"We have better systems in place," said Mike Jeffries, regional vice president.
Beverly's agreement with prosecutors calls for it to pay civil penalties of $17,420 to the federal government and $25,000 to Virginia's Medicaid Fraud Unit.
The company agreed to increase staffing levels and to purchase equipment, such as insulated food carts. It will also set up programs to better care for residents, such as weighing them regularly, and preventing them from falling or developing bed sores.
And the company must set up a cash reserve of $150,000 to pay for future improvements.
Beverly also agreed to let a independent inspector--a registered nurse with experience in caring for the elderly--visit the home to monitor compliance. The nurse files quarterly reports and will file a final report later this year after the agreement ends.